FANATICUS ECONOMICUS: NOT REALLY

From Michael Shermer's Skeptic column in this month's Scientific American, we find a bit of science no football fan can disagree with reasonably.

Specifically, most people will reject the proposal of a 50-50 probability of gaining or losing money, unless the amount to be gained is at least double the amount to be lost. That is, people feel worse about the pain of a loss than they feel better about the pleasure of a gain. Twice as badly, in fact. (emphasis ours)

South Carolina rolls into the Swamp last year and spends the better part of four quarters giving the Gators shaken-baby syndrome: back with the draw and counter plays, forward with the quick slants and screens, back with the draw and counter plays...until we're sitting there in the stands, close to literally sick with nausea as Ryan Succop lines up for a long but entirely possible field goal in the still-liquid humidity of a rapidly cooling nighttime Swamp.

And then, improbable, blameless fate strikes in the form of Jarvis Moss' arms.

(If you wondered why Florida fans worship Nelson, watch the streaking figure in blue who runs to the stands immediately after the block. That's Nelson rushing to the front row to jump in and hug whomever wanted some love and affection.)

Even afterwards, though, the threat of loss stayed with us; not the joy, palpable as it was, but the shadow of near-catastrophe, a dizzying narcotic of having your head shoved over the cliff's edge and then pulled back by inexplicable mercy. Children's museums used to be fond of a cheap but effective exhibit where one placed hands on alternating copper coils of hot and cold water. Your brain, trying to interpret the signals but unable to, simply signals "BURN!," causing the hands to jerk away.

That's precisely what watching that clip is still like. Part of us watches that clip just to get the live unease the pre-snap roar evokes: complete and uncontrollable uncertainty, underscored by its loyal intoxicating companion "animal fear." It's what put us on the obsession hook in 1994 with the single stab of a Patrick Nix pass to Frank Sanders in the Swamp. It's what will keep us pacing in front of flickering electrons for four months straight, as well.

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