We must have reached a point in our shared cultural history where we were all getting a little too comfortable with the idea that “it’s all been done” or we’ve “seen it all before.” Like lifetime poker players who’ve been one-outed on the river enough times to be numb to it, we were all lulled into thinking we could safely shut the teevee off before the end and not miss anything.
Just off the top of my head here, I’m thinking back to that absurd second-round game in last year’s NCAA playoffs between Texas A&M and Northern Iowa, the one in which the Aggies were down 12 with just 44 seconds left in regulation and somehow managed to tie the sucker -- without even calling a timeout (!) -- and win in double-OT.
You have to think a few folks shut the set off before the conclusion of that one.
Sports provided a couple more similarly preposterous finishes last year, highlighted by the Cleveland Cavaliers overcoming a 3-1 deficit in the NBA finals to defeat the seemingly unbeatable Golden State Warriors. Then came the Chicago Cubs similarly coming back from 3-1 down (and from a 108-year title drought) to beat the Cleveland Indians, although not until after the Indians stunningly scored three runs late to tie things up (with an apocalyptic-seeming rain delay prior to extra innings adding further to the delirium).
Then came election night, another stunner for many that seemed to take a crazy turn mid-evening when all of the projections suddenly swung the other way. And of course that completely loopy 25-point comeback engineered by the New England Patriots against the Atlanta Falcons to win Super Bowl 51 is still fresh in everyone’s minds, a game that absolutely no one other than perhaps the Pats thought could possibly play out the way it did.
Vera and I watched the beginning of the Oscars last night, but didn’t bother to stick it out until the end. We hadn’t seen most of the movies. Indeed, we probably only go to the theater about once every other month or so, if that.
Whenever Vera and I do go to the movies, we have a routine where we always stay through the end credits, which invariably makes us the last two people to exit the place. Not sure why we do that, to be honest, although by doing so we necessarily catch any of those funny little post-credits like Ferris Bueller telling the audience to leave or the rider still waiting in Ted Striker’s cab in Airplane!
We were curious to see how the Oscars started, then, but not engaged enough to stick with it. Vera did, however, ask me to DVR the rest before we gave up. I didn’t ask to add the extension when recording, and while I haven’t checked it yet I’m sure I didn’t get the ending as I understand it ran quite late.
I’ve heard about it though, of course, and watched a clip this morning of the remarkable gaffe that saw the wrong film named as best picture, and multiple acceptance speeches being given before the correction came. Seemed fitting, I guess, after more than a year’s worth of such improbable twist-endings.
Hang around poker tournaments enough and you see examples of players all in and at risk leaving the table before the last card is dealt, sometimes when they are still drawing live. Every once in a while -- I’ve seen it happen maybe three or four times -- the departing player’s unlikely runner-runner actually comes, leading to the player having to be recalled to the table by staff or a friendly opponent.
After all of these head-spinning conclusions, gotta think people are going to stop being in such a hurry to get to the exits. Now everyone is going to start sticking around past the end.
For an explanation of all this that is fun -- or frightening, depending on your point of view -- check out Adam Gopnik’s piece for The New Yorker today, “Did the Oscars Just Prove That We Are Living in a Computer Simulation?”