Sports Predictions

Nov 20, 1999

RAY: Hah! We're back. You're listening to Car Talk with us, Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers, and we're here to discuss cars, car repair and whatever. Ah! The new Puzzler!

TOM: I can hardly wait.

RAY: Well, like I said, I have a huge--as my brother knows--an enormous selection of potentially crummy Puzzlers.

TOM: And this is in the least-crummy pile? Do you put them in piles? Do you have piles?

RAY: I had piles once, but I took medication.

TOM: Yeah. So?

RAY: You guys may not like this, and if you don't, tough.

TOM: We'll have to live with anything.

RAY: And I don't know who sent this, because I lost the last page of the letter.

TOM: Wow! It's long.

RAY: Oh, it's handwritten.

TOM: Handwritten.

RAY: I like the handwritten ones.

TOM: Yeah.

RAY: Here it is. You get a letter in the mail predicting the winner of a heavyweight championship match a few weeks before the event.

TOM: Yeah.

RAY: There's no other information in the letter, just the prediction.

TOM: Yeah. This is like the Dempsey-Firpal fight.

RAY: Firpal's going to win.

TOM: Firpal's going to win.

RAY: You don't take it seriously, thinking it's a prank from a friend. Nevertheless, the prediction is correct.

TOM: Oh, man! I love it already!

RAY: You receive subsequent letters predicting the winners of events a few days before they happen. The letters correctly predict the winners of, like I said, a heavyweight championship bout, the World Series...

TOM: Wow!

RAY: The NBA finals, the presidential election, the world chess championship.

TOM: I got it. I know the question, and I know the answer.

RAY: The NCAA basketball finals.

TOM: Yeah.

RAY: The Rose Bowl.

TOM: Wow!

RAY: You are amazed these letters are always correct in their predictions.

TOM: Yeah.

RAY: Even though some are upsets.

TOM: Wow!

RAY: Shortly after the Rose Bowl, you receive a letter stating that after you send--you knew this was coming--10 grand to a certain address...

TOM: Yeah.

RAY: One week before the Super Bowl, you'll receive a letter with the winner of that event.

TOM: I've got it, yeah.

RAY: Should you? And why? Now, if you think you know the answer...


RAY: Why not? Well, how could this guy who's sending you these letters--we've got to assume it's a guy, because women wouldn't do anything this nefarious--how could he possibly be right all the time?

TOM: Wow! This is...this is...

RAY: And if he had been right the first seven times...

TOM: Wow.

RAY: Wouldn't you assume that he'd be right the eighth time? I mean...

TOM: I would.

RAY: Well, you'd lose the 10 grand, you dope! Here's what he did.

TOM: I think this is a brilliant scam.

RAY: Man, it's brilliant. He sends out 200, and let's, for the sake of simplicity...he sends out 256 letters.

TOM: That's...

RAY: About the heavyweight championship match.

TOM: What is that? Two to the what?

RAY: Yeah, the eighth or something.

TOM: One, two, three...eighth.

RAY: Something like that, isn't it?

TOM: It is the eighth, yeah.

RAY: And he sends out 256, but half of them say Jack Dempsey's going to win the heavyweight championship and the other half, the 128 other ones, say Evander Holyfield's going to win the thing.

TOM: And they weren't even fighting.

RAY: And they weren't even fighting, but...

TOM: But he guessed the winner anyway.

RAY: So, you get one of the letters, perhaps, that says Evander Holyfield's going to win, and he wins.

TOM: So, he sends out 256 letters and 128...128 of those people got a winning letter.

RAY: And the other 128 must be discarded.

TOM: Yeah.

RAY: He then takes the 128 and divides that in half, so he sends 64 letters about the next event, and 64 letters contrary, with contrary results, and he throws away half of them again. And it just so happens that every time, you're on the winner's side. Somebody has to be.

TOM: Yeah.

RAY: In fact, half the people have to be.

TOM: Yeah.

RAY: Until he gets down to one person. He gets down to you. He's been right every time.

TOM: Yeah. See, I think...

RAY: And now, he says to you, "Send me 10 grand, and I'll tell you who's going to win the Super Bowl."

TOM: And you say, how can this guy lose?

RAY: Except you got a 50-50 chance, which is exactly what you had without the letter.

TOM: But, see, wait a minute. We have to discuss this further. Because I think this is a legitimate scam.

RAY: Is it legal?

TOM: I think he went about it wrong.

RAY: Oh, you do, huh?

TOM: Yeah. The trouble was, he didn't mail out enough.

RAY: Oh, exactly. Exactly.

TOM: He's got to mail out thousands of them. That way, instead of asking for $10,000 at the end...

RAY: He's asking for $10,000 from hundreds of people.

TOM: I know. Ten thousand makes people think about it too much. Fifty bucks.

RAY: Fifty bucks from thousands of people.

TOM: From many thousands of people.

RAY: Yeah.

TOM: I'm gonna do this tonight!

RAY: There's got to be a law against this. I hope!

TOM: I don't see why.

RAY: There will be by next week!

TOM: What are you doing that's illegal? You're saying to people, look, if you send me 50 bucks, I'll send you this letter. And you're going to fulfill that. You're going to fulfill that.

RAY: That's why the prisons are full of guys like you!

TOM: I think it's great!

RAY: Do we have a winner this week?

TOM: Yeah, we do. The winner is Mark Jugger from Salem, Oregon.

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