This article appeared in the January 29, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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This Super Bowl, watch for the Jedi mind tricks

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports NPSTrans toppic
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes speaks with the media at the JW Marriott Turnberry in Miami on Jan. 28, 2020.

Ahead of the Super Bowl, consider this. The real game will be the mind game. Just watch the offense of the Kansas City Chiefs. It’s a symphony of misdirection, intended to befuddle and bewitch more than bludgeon.

The game is more mental than it’s ever been. This week, the Cleveland Browns hired a 32-year-old Harvard grad to run their football operations. His boss? A Harvard grad known as an analytics guru. Forget three yards and a cloud of dust, think three Ivy League grads and a cloud of spreadsheets.

Baseball started the trend, first with “Moneyball” and more recently with infield shifts, WAR, and the death of the starting pitcher. Basketball followed with its analytics-based three-point revolution, and hockey has added Corsi and zone starts to prove, once and for all, that fighting really is stupid.

If you don’t understand any of that, just know this. Last Super Bowl, Patriots coach Bill Belichick essentially beat the Los Angeles Rams by out-thinking them. His superpower has always been in unorthodox schemes and strategies. And in a league where so much is equal, teams are learning that innovative thinking is the ultimate unequalizer.

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This article appeared in the January 29, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 01/29 edition