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February 25, 2017

No country for fast men: How a coin toss determined a race at Big-12’s

Yesterday, at the Big-12 Indoor Championships in Ames, Iowa, there was a tie for the 8th fastest preliminary time in the men’s 60m dash. Two athletes finished in 6.809 seconds. Without consulting any sort of rule book, my gut tells me a run-off would have been the logical means of determining which of the two men (Baylor’s Malik Wilson and Texas’s Charles Anumnu) should advance to the final. Instead, it was decided via coin toss that Wilson would move on.

tie big 12 60m final

This is crazy, but it’s also the most Texas way of making a decision. (I know this meet is being held in Iowa…but like, half of the teams in the Big-12 are from Texas.) And by extension, it’s kind of a stupid way of making a decision. We will quickly turn to popular culture to validate my correct opinion. (And beforefriday night lights anybody gets pissed at me for saying Texas is really dumb, I’m from San Antonio so I’m allowed to good-naturedly disparage my home state, okay?)

Having never seen the critically-acclaimed television series Friday Night Lights, I can confidently say the movie is better. I’ve heard snippets of conversation describing ridiculous plotlines from the TV program and yeah, the movie’s just way better. Explosions in the Sky’s soundtrack is wonderful and the version of “Your Hand in Mine” featured in the film (which has a string quartet backing) makes me cry with about a 75%-success-rate.

I digress.

In the superior film version, the Permian Odessa Panthers qualify for state via coin toss, held at some random truck stop, presumably because if people knew where it was happening, somebody would get killed. The movie wants us to infer that Odessa, Texas, doesn’t have anything going for it except its high school football team. So this is just a cruel way to either buoy or crush a town’s hopes. Why not go to like, point differential or something that takes chance out of the equation? People can live with defeat, so long as it’s earned.

The other example that immediately comes to mind is when Anton Chigurh, played by Javier Bardem, in the Coen Brothers’ No Country for Old Men (based on the Cormac McCarthy novel), enters a West Texas gas station and threatens to kill the attendant, just based on the results of a coin toss.

“What’s the most you’ve ever lost in a coin toss,” he croaks to the frightened gas station-owner and it’s remarkably creepy. Bardem is perfect in this role and Chigurh is the best villain in any movie of the last 20 years, except maybe the mean prince from Shrek.

javier bardem no country for old me

Back to West Texas. The man facing death stammers around for a bit and eventually calls the right side of the coin. Chigurh tells him to keep the coin, as it’s now lucky. Crazy stuff. But the point is, that a coin toss shouldn’t decide life or death matters. Or really any matters.

There is always a way to make an informed decision in the world of athletics without turning to chance. The only acceptable time to act based on the landing of a coin, is if you can’t decide between Papa John’s and Dominos. And even then you should just go to Little Caesar’s and get a Hot-N-Ready. (We were not paid by Little Caesar’s for this but we wish we were.)

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