## The Coincidence of the Twelfth Man

(Submitted by  blog reader, loyal Seahawks Season Ticket holder Bill Young)

Like everyone else here in Seattle, I watched the Superbowl and noticed more than a few coincidences.

• Of course Seattle is home of the 12th man.
• Superbowl XXLVIII (48)
• 4 + 8 = 48
• Seattle scored at 12 seconds into the game.
• Seattle’s first touchdown was at 12:00 in the second quarter.
• Seattle scored at 12 seconds into the second half.
• Russell Wilson passed for 206 yards (206 is Seattle’s area code)
• Seahawks final score 43 points
• 4×3 = 12

What are the odds?

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Below are the extended notes provided by cognitive psychologist and statistician Barbara Drescher for use in Skepticality Episode 230. Take a look and leave your comments below. Also, please be sure to listen to the podcast  for our own sarcastic and hilarious commentary. Also, visit Barbara’s blog.

“The 12th man” refers to the fans. Teams are only allowed 11 players on the field at a time, but fans can affect the outcome of the game by cheering (it’s a subtle effect), so they call the fans “the 12th man”. I’m not sure how Seattle got to be known as “The Home of the 12th Man”.

The odds of all of those things happening are difficult to calculate, but not really worth examining. It’s a good example of post hoc data-mining and cherry-picking. He looked for things that relate to the number 12 and ignored all of the things that don’t. For example, what are the numbers of the players who scored? What was the score at the half? How many coaches were on the field? How many turnovers were there? Lots of numbers involved in the game don’t fit the idea that “12” is a special number that matches the Seahawk’s marketing campaign about the 12th man.

## Acting Like Cops

(Submitted by friend of the blog, Spencer Marks)

One time, when I was still a police officer, I went into the break room at the police station and there was another officer there (we’ll call him Phil); he was reading a newspaper, and I sat across from him.  Out of the blue he said, “You know, Marks (my last name), you are one of those guys who always seems to know everybody.”

I said, “What do you mean by that?”  He continued, “You always seem to be connected to people in these Officer Involved Shootings (we had recently had several  of them in the City of L.A.), from different divisions, and you always seem to know a lot of different people…”

“I don’t know what to tell you,” I said. “I know a lot of cops, I’ve worked at a lot of Divisions and I know a lot of people…”

It was a weird conversation. Just then he lowered the newspaper and he pointed to a picture of Val Kilmer, who I grew up with, as Jim Morrison in a movie about the Doors that was about to come out. He said, “I can hardly wait for this movie to come out — I’m a huge fan of Val Kilmer and I’m a huge Doors fan.”  I thought, “How did he know that I grew up with Val Kilmer? Did he talk to someone and just set me up with that elaborate statement?”  Or is this just a weird coincidence?

And I kind of thought about it for a minute, and said, “you know Phil, you won’t believe this…”

Phil said, “Don’t tell me; you know Val Kilmer…?!”

I said, “I grew up with him. It wasn’t like he was ‘Val Kilmer the actor’– it was Val and his brothers Wesley and Mark–Val was in my sister’s class, and Wesley was in my class. We went to their house all the time, they came to our house to play and we were all friends…”

And Phil said, “Yeah, yeah, yeah… whatever” and we dropped the conversation.

Ten days later, my phone rang at home, and a hesitant voice said “Spencer? It’s Val Kilmer.” At first I thought Phil was just pulling my chain. I hadn’t talked with Val in 15 years and didn’t really recognize his voice right away. So I sort of answered in a very nonchalant voice, “Oh… hi.”

Then he said, almost apologetically, “Is it OK that I called you at home? Peggye gave me your number. I’m doing a new movie and I’m playing an FBI agent and Peggye told me you are working as a police officer and gave me your number…”  Those were the magic words, because I knew Phil wouldn’t have known my sister’s name, so I said, “OF COURSE it’s OK  that you called me at home!” Val came over, and we talked for a few hours at my house, but I told him, “I can tell you what it’s like to be a street cop, but not an FBI agent… but I have a friend who’s in the FBI. Let’s go talk with him tomorrow.”  So I arranged that.

The coincidence part is pretty much over, but the rest is more about human interest. We went (the next day) to talk with my friend the FBI agent, then went to the gun club to go shooting. I felt I needed to apologize to Val about the lukewarm reception when he first phoned. I explained about Phil and the conversation 10 days earlier.

Val started laughing hysterically — we had talked earlier about how the press gets everything wrong, and he said, “Let me send Phil a picture; it’s on two frames, one with a picture of me as Jim Morrison, the other is a picture of me as Jim Morrison being dragged off stage by police officers, and signed: ‘Phil, don’t believe anything the press tells you, but believe everything Spencer tells you. — Val Kilmer'”

Two weeks later, the package arrives, and Phil opened it, and said “Very funny…” as if he didn’t believe it was a real autographed picture. So I said “Dude, if you want Val’s autograph, take good care of it. It’s a real autograph… don’t throw it away.”  He seemed like he didn’t trust me. Six months later I asked what he did with the autographed picture; he said it was hanging on the wall in his den.

I guess he figured it was real, because it was postmarked New Mexico… and it would have been a very elaborate joke to have it relayed through New Mexico.

[EDITOR:  While he may have been connected to people involved in these shootings, Spencer has never shot any members, friends, or family of our team while on or off duty, and had he, we can state with confidence that the case would have been quietly settled out of court, with an agreement of silence, for an undisclosed sum of money that may or may not have allowed us to cover the web hosting costs of this blog.]

## ComiCon Encounter

(Submitted by friend of the blog, Brian Hart)

My friends Derek, Paula and I are waiting on line at San Diego’s ComiCon July 2010.  We are in line to see the Mythbusters Panel, the first time that all five Mythbusters are appearing on the same panel at ComiCon.  The hall holds about 2000 people and we are way, way in the back of that line.  It looks like we might not get inside.

The line slowly creeps up and they let the three of us in, probably the last few people to get in the room.  It is packed with over 2000 anxious, excited fans.  I look for three seats together, but only find two empty ones, literally in the last row.  Derek decides to sit on the floor and charge up his iPhone, so Paula and I take the last two seats.  We sit down, and in the row in front of us, in fact, in the very two seats DIRECTLY in front of us are our friends, Amy Davis Roth and Phil Plait!

What are the odds?  Crazy?  Crazier? Craziest?