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The Downbeat #1819: Powerball Edition

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I felt like this about the reffing too.
I felt like this about the reffing too.
Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

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Behavior psychologists have long understood the power of something called variable reinforcement. Reinforcement, in general, is basically receiving a reward for a certain behavior. Think of giving your kids some video game time as a reward for doing the dishes without complaining. The "variable" part of the term refers to the frequency of the reward. Basically, a variable reinforcement is random. The subject knows what the reward is but does not know when it will be given. It may be after doing the task after five times, it may be after ten more times, or it may be this time. The subject isn't told.

Variable reinforcement is known for a very high success rate. The idea is that if you give the reward every single time, as soon as you stop the subject wonders what is going on. But if it is variable, and the subject knows this, he often will do it even if a reward isn't given. This is because even though the subject knows it probably won't happen this time, it might. Or maybe after just a second time. There is simply enormous power to the idea that "well, maybe this time I'll get it. And if I don't, it could be next time."

This is, of course, why gambling so successfully gets people to throw money away. Powerball gets people in Utah to travel a hundred miles out of state and spend thousands of dollars on a ticket that we all know probably isn't going to win. But somebody wins, we think, and you never know. This time might be the time.


I was thinking of this last night. Not because of Powerball, really, but as I watched the Jazz play like a discombobulated mess to the bitter end. I knew, just after watching them for a few minutes, that they were probably going to lose the game ... especially as soon as they decided to not bother guarding guys taking 3's in the third quarter. But hey, you never know. I have seen teams come back from 25 down in the fourth quarter. I saw the Miracle in Miami. I saw Tracy McGrady score 13 points in 33 seconds. I watched Reggie Miller score 8 straight points in less than 9 seconds to single-handedly turn a certain playoff loss into a win. I've seen miracle comebacks.

Sure, the Jazz played like crap, but ... you never know.

So I watched it to the end. Even though it made me send out the grumpiest tweets I've written in a while. Cuz you never know.

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Moni tweeted this, and I have watched it perhaps 100 times so far. For unknown reasons, it just kills me and I love it with every fiber of my being. The important detail is Greg Miller, sitting by the scorer's table ...

For whatever reason I like that he looks exactly like I do in my $10 seats 5 rows from the ceiling during sequences like this. I wonder if he had the same disgusted look as me last night.

ESPN decided to rank the best PG's of all time. Really it was just a different angle for them to point that Steph Curry has personally slipped into a parallel dimension while simultaneously still existing in ours. Really, there's no way a guy should be judged as 4th best after playing only 7 season. But that's what Steph's 2015-16 season does ... it warps the universe.

For us, of course, we all get to remember John Stockton again (ranked #3, behind Magic and Oscar). The more I watch the Jazz in the years since, the more I appreciate how good Stock was. One thing I think about a lot right now is how he ran fast breaks. He'd do such subtle, almost unnoticeable things to open up shots for others if the defense was good. Little leans or nudges with his body to draw the defender an extra step one way, opening up the lane for the other guy.

All this makes me long for a good PG again. Hopefully soon ...


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I've been on the Jeff Withey bandwagon for some time now. I keep wondering if we need to do some kind of intervention for Quin Snyder's Booker addiction.

Really, I think the Jazz could be above .500 right now if we just had more guys as effective as Withey on the bench (and played those guys more that those who aren't effective).


Withey dining with style

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LeBron recently did a Mailman dunk. This is fun enough. But, as they are wont to do, the Starters made it even more fun by debating it.

I say cool.

But I also say this isn't what I think of when I think of a Mailman dunk. I think of those dunks that were so violent that his leg kicked out, searching for someone dumb enough to get in the way.