Experts can be foolish at predicting information

Trust everybody, but cut the cards.


– Finley Peter Dunne


Why do the smart guys often get it wrong?

They’re particularly bad on TV where foolishness is on parade 24-7. Take all those foreign policy geniuses who said the Russians would never invade anyone anymore. Not only did they say it, they were smugly condescending toward anyone who disagreed with their brilliance.

Dim bulbs, we now know, provide limited illumination.

What about the Atlanta ice storm back in January? The Georgia Emergency Management Agency, which should spend pretty much all its time planning for major weather events, expected rain. But it got colder, didn’t it?

The Oscars? Never have so many talked so much about so little.

Personally, I don’t keep up much with foreign policy, Atlanta weather or movies, but I do follow sports, and it is no different.

So many channels. So many shows. So many experts, many of them past participants at their sport’s highest levels. They should know, right? Nope.

Take the Super Bowl where Denver was favored over Seattle. When Mike Ditka, Steve Young, Ron Jaworski, Tom Jackson and many, many more said the Broncos would win, I believed them. Those guys played in Super Bowls. They knew. But they didn’t. Denver was demolished.

Just like the World Series where the baseball insiders all nodded their heads knowingly and said the crafty National League champion St. Louis Cardinals would prevail over the surprising Red Sox.

Surprise. Boston won easily.

The truth is, it has always been this way. Here’s my favorite list of examples:

• In 1990, R.J. Reynolds “smokeless” cigarette, Premier, was snuffed out after four months on the market. This after seven years of research that cost $325 million, back when that was a lot of money.

• Movie star Lana Turner’s grandfather was half-owner of a small company that made soft drinks, but he sold out. He thought the name “Coca-Cola” wasn’t catchy.

• In the 16th century, the Duke Lorenzo de Medici decided to paint over the old murals on his walls. Since then, the Italian government has spent millions trying to undo what the duke had done. Those covered-over murals were originals by Leonardo da Vinci.

• In 1948, American and British auto experts were sent to Germany to inspect its post-war production efforts. When they toured the Volkswagen plant, both said the little “beetle” did not “meet the fundamental technical requirements of a motorcar.” Ernest Breech, the American inspector and president of Ford Motor Co., said the Volkswagen was not “worth a damn,” and went back home and developed the Edsel.

• David Rowe, a Decca Record Co. employee, was badgered to listen to a tape of an unknown pop music band. “I’m sorry,” he said after hearing it, “groups with guitars are on the way out.” The Beatles made music for someone else.

Here’s my point: Most of us know about as much as the guy on TV in a suit and tie, and many of us know even more.

If you take a moment to consider your options and have a plan or two, if things go wrong, you’ll probably be OK.

As for the experts: Just because you know a lot, doesn’t mean you know it all.