«RM75»«FC»COL8MDH.MDH - Longshots in World Championships Pay Off... Sometimes
The mathematical discipline of statistics evolved from gamblers needing to be able to calculate the odds on wagers. Yet when it comes to some sporting propositions, the mathematics of probability can be difficult to figure.
In the fall of 1985, I'd just begun working for the Missouri Senate writing press releases and speeches to pay for journalism school. I was a rank recruit when the state was smitten with the I-70 World Series fever. Before the playoffs warning signs had loomed in the form of autographed pics of Brett Saberhagen, George Brett and Joaquin Andujar pinned to office bulletin boards -- trophies secured when teams had visited the Capitol. Senators' offices often had a little -- and in some cases a lot -- of red or blue baseball swag depending on their proximity to St. Louis or Kansas City.
Then, the Cards and Royals clinched their pennants. Not since the Civil War had the Capitol been so utterly divided. For years afterward, the best way to start a fight in Missouri's Capitol was to mention Game 6. While such outcomes were inevitable in a state that was home to both the winning and the losing team of the '85 Series, Missouri, itself, was only stepping up to the plate in betting big on pro sports.
In 1987, Bill Bidwell won the title of most hated man in Missouri by moving the St. Louis football Cardinals to Arizona. Across the state, in Kansas City, the Chiefs fans remained as fiercely loyal as any in the NFL. But St. Louis, the cross-state rival, now had no team at all.
Plans in the Capitol were fast and furious, and ultimately a bonding scheme was cobbled together to publicly finance a new stadium to try to lure an NFL franchise. The stadium was bundled as a "convention center" to sell the package. I recall the comments of one outstate senator, whose district was far from St. Louis: "I have to vote for this," he said, "but it's a lot of money for a long, long time."
The original funding deal and legislation were put together under the administration of Gov. John Ashcroft -- by no means a gambler, but enough of an NFL supporter to sign a pricy bonding bill in July, 1989, to pay for the stadium. In 1992, ground was broken. In 1993, the Ashcroft administration handed this hot potato off to newly elected Gov. Mel Carnahan. I'm sure there was a lot of nail-biting prior to St.Louis securing the Rams in 1995.
Getting an NFL team was a victory, but fumbles like personal seating licenses and weak performance kept it from being a decisive victory until Super Bowl XXXIV in 1999. In the 2000 state of the state address, Carnahan put a lot of emphasis on "Superbowl champion" St. Louis Rams. The long shot had finally paid off for Missouri.
Now, another long shot has paid off, this time in the first World Series title by the Kansas City Royals since that I-70 series way back in 1985. A great team played a great series. And a great city responded with well-deserved pride. The peaceful victory celebration made all of Missouri proud of Kansas City and the world champion Royals; true sportsmanship by the team and their fans alike.
Meanwhile, across the state, another big league gamble looms, not to attract an NFL team, but to keep one. Unlike the last big football bet, this time the governor and the general assembly may not be playing on the same team.
Sometimes, it's hard to figure the odds on a longshot sports wager. But while those we've elected to make the tough calls try to figure this one out, wouldn't it be nice to see the respectable behavior and winning sportsmanship we've seen in Kansas City show up in our state Capitol as well?
[After a career in journalism, Mark Hughes became a top, non-partisan policy analyst for Missouri government including the state Senate, state Treasurer's Office and the utility-regulating PSC. He has been an observer and analyst of state government since the administration of Gov. Kit Bond.]