## Superbowl and a different kind of bowl

(Submitted by  blog reader John Hordyk)

What are the chances the two teams (from states) that legalized pot, both made it to the Super Bowl?

I came up with on in 509,600 to 1.

Fifty states could have legalized pot, if you assume two would, you have a 2450 to 1 chance it would be those two.

Twenty-two states that have football teams, so a chance that it would be those two, this will take a little longer to figure out.

Two hundred eight to one chances it would be these teams, so.

509,600 to one chance the two teams that legalized pot would be in the Super Bowl?

Is that right?

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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.

I think this is an interesting question, but I got a different answer from the author.

According to my calculations, there are 1225 ways to pick 2 from 50, so the chance of any two specific states legalizing pot (assuming that two would, which is a big assumption, but one we have to make) is 1 in 1225.If the Super Bowl teams were chosen at random (rather than performance), there are 231 ways to pick 2 from 22.We can then calculate the odds that both events will happen by multiplying them: .00082 x .00432 = .0000035.Pretty small! BUT… football teams making the Super Bowl and the passing of legislation like the legalization of pot are not random events. There are probably all kinds of factors which make these two things correlated, even if that correlation is extremely small. Even the smallest correlation can have a dramatic effect on the likelihood of the event.

## The Popes of Finnish Football

My name is Brian Pope I am an American and I have lived here in Vantaa, Finland for the past 5.5 years. I play football (soccer for my North American brethren) and am a goalkeeper. A few years ago I got a message from a teammate asking if I had given up on our hobby league football team and signed for a pro club in Vaasa, Finland (Vaasan Palloseura VPS).

Now I believe myself to be a decent keeper but by no means pro level. My teammate sent me a link that announced the signing of an American goalkeeper named Brian Pope to VPS.  I thought this was very entertaining. Through Facebook I was able to track down this other American Goalkeeper named Brian Pope and relayed the coincidence. He enjoyed the story as well.

During this same time, my wife’s cousin, who lives in Vaasa, happened by an apartment where the name on the mail slot said “Brian Pope” and snapped a picture. She thought it was pretty amazing to have another Brian Pope in Finland. She did not know that I knew there was another person by the same name living in Vaasa so I relayed the story to her.

What are the odds that there were 2 Brian Popes living in Finland at the same time both being football goalkeepers? Granted at different levels of football. The fact that my wife’s cousin happened by that mail slot is another set of odds all together.

For reference I was born in 78 and the other Brian Pope in 85.

Below are the extended notes provided by Barbara Drescher for use in Skepticality Episode 203. Take a look and leave your comments below.

The odds of this are a little more difficult to calculate than most of the other “same name” stories that we get, mostly because the frequencies of names in Finland in past years are not easy to find. Both his first and last names are fairly common in the U.S., but I found myself impressed with the coincidences in the story and it is my own amazement, once again, that I think is interesting.

Soccer is an extremely popular sport, so even the fact that few soccer players are goalkeepers should not make this story so surprising. However, there is an aspect of this story that explains my feelings: distance and familiarity. Familiar settings provide frames of reference to anchor us. We are more confident with our estimates of everything from accident rates to salaries when the context is familiar. Finland is not a familiar place to most Americans. Numbers of Americans living in that part of the world are also not available, but who ever talks about moving to Finland? France, Italy, even Egypt are more likely. There is no Eiffel Tower, no pyramids, and no riviera. Finland does not seem exotic. It just feels foreign, and the
lack of familiar context seems to make the presence of such a common, American-sounding name feel more out of place than it probably was.