At Soldier Field on Monday night, the Chicago Bears coin toss winning streak ended at 14 in a row.
You could say it was flipping amazing while it lasted.
As we detailed last week, Bears broadcast statistician Doug Colletti found that the team won the final five coin tosses last season, all four preseason flips, and five more in the current season (including one at the start of overtime on Sept. 24). The probability of winning a coin toss 15 times in a row is 1 in 32,768, and the Bears just came up short.
Last week, academic experts from MIT, Harvard and the University of Illinois were less than impressed with the Bears 14 flip win streak.
“The biggest coincidence of all would be if there were no such coincidences,” said Harvard’s Joe Blitzstein.
Further research from Colletti shows that there have been 16,195 NFL regular season and playoff games since 1920, including Monday’s contest in Chicago. (We still don’t have an accurate count for the number of preseason games.) So every week, this streak was getting exponentially more interesting. Literally.
Remember the point of this whole thing. The pregame coin toss gives the winner a choice: elect to kick off or receive the kick to start the game; choose which goal the team will defend; or defer that choice to the start of the second half. The visiting captain calls heads or tails before the coin is flipped.
There were a lot of questions we had for the Bears. Who decides whether to call heads or tails? Is the decision made in the moment, or is it pre-planned? How does the team decide whether to take the ball on offense or defer the decision to the second half? Enquiring minds wanted to know.
The Bears communications staff suggested we come out to the team’s headquarters in Lake Forest and put the questions to coach John Fox during one of his media availabilities. We never made it, but a spokesperson also said that while it may seem trivial, some of those issues can deal with “a competitive advantage.” Far be it from us to want to expose any edge the Bears may possess.
Also this week, a clever reader pointed us to the play “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” by Tom Stoppard. The Bears, it appears, were like a modern-day Rosencrantz. They couldn’t lose a coin toss. Watch this clip if you want to get a taste of the hilarity.
While such long streaks are highly unlikely, the chances are good for the team starting a new streak next week. That is if you consider fifty-fifty good.
Sept. 29: The likelihood of correctly calling 14 coin tosses in a row is 1 in 16,384—or about as likely as Bears fans longing for the return of Rex Grossman. In light of the Bears’ current streak, we crunch the numbers.