Perspectives from a Mediator/Arbitrator

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Expectations? Mediations and Baseball Punditry

Anyone who has read this blog will know that I am a baseball fan. I enjoy watching it and I play in a very complicated computer-simulated fantasy game (by the way the Portsiders missed the playoffs by two games). I am always amazed by baseball pundits. This fall has been more fun in watching the pundits be wrong than I could have imagined. The Detroit Tigers limped into the postseason. They lost their last three regular season games against the lowly Kansas City Royals and were given no chance against the Mighty New York Yankees - by the pundits. The St. Louis Cardinals were even worse down the stretch and literally backed into the playoffs. Everyone (by that I mean the pundits - the people who are paid to think about these things) was saying, as the playoffs began, that the Cardinals were as good as finished. Well - what happened? They played the games. The unexpected happened. Now the Tigers are in the World Series and depending on the outcome of tonight's game seven - the Cardinals may be there as well. It gets more fun than that for people like me who like to see the experts come up on the short-end of the guessing games. Going into game five of the Mets-Cardinals series, everywere I turned pundits were saying the Mets were finished if they did not win game five and that the Mets would win the game. They lost the game. That meant the series was over if you listened to the pundits. Then before game six the pundits reinforced what they had said before game five and said the Mets were finished because the Cardinals had a Cy Young-calibre pitcher throwing in game six. The pundits said the series was over. The Mets won. When their expectations of the outcome of game five were not met - the pundits stayed the course and were certain that thier prediction of the outcome of the series would hold true. If the Mets lose game five, the series will end in six. The pundits got both games wrong - those are the experts!

What does all of this have to do with mediation, you ask? Lots. Everyone who is involved in litigation has expectations. Expectations of the outcome. Expectations of the process. Mostly, I find in mediations that people genuinely think that they are going to win (or at least not lose that badly). I have to tell people over and over that it is unlikely that their expectations are going to be met - and sports gives me the perfect example. Just because the experts think they know what will happen does not mean that it will. It might, but nothing in litigation (like sports) is a certainty and it might not. The outcome of one particular baseball game is not unlike the outcome of one particular trial. If you had 100 games to play, you would expect the stronger side to win a majority of the games. If you had 100 trials, you would expect the same. But, like the game, a single trial can turn on an unexpected event.

I will watch the game tonight and continue to think about expectations. The odds tell me that whichever team is leading after 7 innings will likely win - maybe the experts will even tell me that is going to happen. I will watch and see whether the expectation is met. So far the baseball pundits have been more wrong than right with their expectations. I am no expert but I think Suppan shuts down the Mets but the Mets have an unbelievable comeback and will face the Tigers in the World Series

Thanks to my very good friend Jules Bloch who listened to me rant about baseball pundits and said it would make a good blog topic. He will let me know whether this met his expectation - I expect!


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