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Mathletics by Wayne L. Winston

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RANKING GREAT SPORTS COLLAPSES

With seventeen games left in the 2007 baseball season the New York Mets held a seemingly comfortable seven-game lead in the National League East over the second-place Philadelphia Phillies. The Mets collapsed and the Phillies won the division. This collapse inspired Fox News sportswriter Todd Behrendt to write an article ranking the “all-time great sports collapses.”1 In this chapter we will make some simple assumptions and then use basic probability to try and determine the probability of each collapse occurring. The “greatest collapse” would then be the collapse that had the smallest probability of occurring.

A List of Great Collapses

We now describe the great baseball, basketball, and football collapses ...

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