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An exercise in Critical Thinking

I play in a local dart league, and am the captain of my team.  All that really means is that I have to fill out lineup cards, turn in scoresheets, and be responsible for paying dues.  Even so, it has recently become important in a little lesson on critical thinking.  I’ll tell the story briefly:

My team is generally in the top two or three in the city every season.  From top to bottom, we’re all pretty strong players, except for one guy named Mike.  Mike is admittedly not good.  However, he’s a permanent member of the team, and adds more by his presence than his darts.  He’s a great guy who’s very funny, has a great time, and always makes the match more fun.  Tonight, we are beginning the city playoffs as the number two seed.

Last night, I had a rather bizarre dream.  I was filling out the lineup card for the match, and as is my normal custom, I scribbled and scratched through names a few times until I got to the lineup I wanted.  When I was done, I noticed that Mike was not in the lineup.  In fact, I looked around and he wasn’t in the room.  That’s it.  That was the whole dream.

This morning, a phone call woke me up.  It was a friend of Mike’s, telling me that Mike was in a bad car accident yesterday, and is going to be laid up in the hospital for a while, and then will be in a neck brace for several months — obviously unable to play darts.  Spooky, eh?  It’s like… a premonition.

Or…. is it?

This is a classic example of the type of situation that people like to attribute to supernatural forces, ESP, or alien transmissions, but is that really what happened?  Actually, no.  After I remembered the dream this morning, I did some thinking, and recalled that at the last dart match of the regular  season, Mike pulled me aside and graciously offered not to play during important games in the playoffs, knowing that his darts are not as good as the rest of the team’s.  It was a very short conversation, but it registered in my brain.  I’m the captain.  I make out the lineups.  So for the last two weeks, I’ve known that I would not be putting Mike into the lineup tonight.  Last night was the night before the big match.  Is it surprising that I had a dream about darts?  Of course not!  It’s the playoffs.   This is for the city championship in the end.

Now, let’s flip things around.  Suppose Mike had not been in a car accident yesterday.  Would I have thought anything special of the dream?  Not at all.  It’s quite normal for people to have dreams about upcoming competitions.  Any of us who have played competitive sports have had it happen before.  Since I remembered that conversation with Mike, I probably would have remembered it had he been perfectly ok.  I would have thought nothing of it.  It makes sense.

Still, there are people who will try to make this into a big deal.  Sadly, it’s not.  It’s not ESP or a premonition.  It’s just an interesting coincidence.  Those happen all the time.  In any case, I hope Mike is ok, and that he’s able to rejoin us next season.  Somehow, shots of Jagermeister aren’t as fun when he’s not buying…

Get well, Mike.

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