While the weather forecast plays a big role in ocean adventures, the gut often has final say. (Photo by Jeff Lund)

While the weather forecast plays a big role in ocean adventures, the gut often has final say. (Photo by Jeff Lund)

I Went to the Woods: Math meets guts

I found myself emotionally involved Sunday and felt the pending demise of the Detroit Lions with every dropped pass.

I liked the story of the Lions more than the story of the 49ers and that provided the only reason I was pulling for Detroit. As a Broncos fan, I believe it is unethical to cheer too hard for a team that is not “mine.” People who have one team per conference, a team they like, a team they grew up liking and one for good measure are the Mr. Potato Head of fans.

Monday was filled with analysis and commentary mostly about the decisions of the Detroit head coach. I didn’t mind the 4th down calls because that’s what they’ve done. That’s who they are. You can’t shy away from big moments. To not go for it might be more of a signal that coach doesn’t have faith.

But yeah, probably take the points.

The analytics apparently stated that going for it both times increased the odds of winning the game, which is the point, but I often wonder if we over-math sports. Moneyball was a great movie and the principle is really innovative. But the A’s have only been to one American League Championship Series since email became mainstream. A franchise cannot live on numbers alone.

I still like sports and believe they serve an important role in our society, but it is passive entertainment. The promise I feel before watching a professional or college game is nothing compared to the promise of the morning sun in the alpine, or the first swing through spot four on my favorite steelhead river.

It’s incredibly easy to get into the weeds about ballistics, feet per second, or whatever new term is made up by a marketing team to sell gear that is only marginally better than before, but it ultimately comes down to a feeling.

I rarely use a few fly patterns that some say are the hands-down best for catching spring steelhead. It’s not that I don’t trust my buddies, it’s that I just feel really good about my program and what I use. One of my friends has extensive notes of temperature, depth, flies, and fish caught for over decades. Yet the only thing we really share is that we sometimes fish the same river and we both have the same brand of fly rod. Maybe I’m not open-minded, but there is something to be said for individuality and faith in the call you make.

There is also a difference between making an informed decision and being stubborn or naive. Informed decision-making implies a level of experience and at least some level of consideration of the odds.

On a day in July, the numbers said I could take my skiff to my favorite halibut spot. Well, not my favorite halibut spot, but the best one I can access with our 18-foot Lund. The numbers were wrong. Halfway out, five-knot winds became ten and the direction was perfectly wrong. So I turned and retreated. I trusted my gut. Or had no guts. Depending on how you want to look at it.

Sometimes you go for it, sometimes you don’t. And just like the talking heads are criticizing or defending the coaches, we do the same. Sometimes basking in the glory of our decision to go for it that resulted in an epic hunt or day fishing. Sometimes shaking our heads, wondering what we were thinking. Both are expected parts of the Alaskan experience and either is often better than sitting at home judging the calls of others with our keyboards.

• Jeff Lund is a freelance writer based in Ketchikan. His book, “A Miserable Paradise: Life in Southeast Alaska,” is available in local bookstores and at Amazon.com. “I Went to the Woods” appears twice per month in the Sports & Outdoors section of the Juneau Empire.

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