3 Reasons Quibbl Was Wrong About the Olympics

The fresh powder has settled on the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Before the games began, Quibbl asked which country would win the most medals. Nearly 70% of users quibbled that the American athletes would accumulate the most combined gold, silver and bronze medals during the two weeks of competition.

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Thoughtful deliberation on this quibbl quickly descended into a “U-S-A” chant

But the U.S. finished 4th in the overall medal count, a full 16 medals behind first-place Norway.

Why did Quibbl get it so wrong?

Reason #1 – Reasonable Wishful Thinking

Quibbl users wanted their country to win, and it seemed possible. The Winter Olympics isn’t the World Cup: there’s a general vibe that the U.S. is a contender. They’ve won the 2nd most medals since the Winter Olympics started and have won the medal count as recently as 2010. There are recognizable American winter sport athletes like Shaun White and Lindsey Vonn. The “Miracle on Ice” happened, and there was a movie about it.

If Quibbl had been around in 1980, would most users have picked the U.S. hockey team to upset the Soviet Union? Certainly those Cold War-era quibbl points would be worth a lot today.

In the case of the 2018 Winter Olympics, it’s likely that the combination of home-country favoritism with a plausible outcome helped skew the voting in favor of the U.S. It isn’t clear exactly how unlikely a quibbl outcome has to be to overcome this bias.

Reason #2 – Ignorance

Quibbl users didn’t do their research. Although only about 14% of Quibbl correctly picked Norway, the Norwegian dominance at this Olympics was definitely predictable. Sports Illustrated writer Brian Cazenueve accurately called that the top four countries would be Norway, Germany, Canada and the United States, in that order. Relative to his forecast, Norway actually underperformed – earning a mere 39 medals compared with his prediction of 42.

Folks have pointed to many reasons for Norway’s success: for one, they happened to have two all-time great alpine skiers competing in Pyeongchang. Who knew? Apparently not the good people who voted on this quibbl (myself included). Maybe some quibblers kind of knew Norway was going to win but picked the U.S. anyway. Although, it’s questionable whether or not doing a little more research to learn how good Norway was would have influenced anybody’s vote at all. Quibbl’s Brandon Lowden, for example, seemed to watch himself vote against his own better instincts in real time.

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Reason #3 – Fun

Quibbl users weren’t taking this question that seriously. If reason #1 was a desire to see the U.S. win that was somewhat grounded in reality, then there’s probably a different shade of that motivation based purely on enjoying the experience of watching the Olympics. Those who always watch and cheer for U.S. athletes just didn’t want to complicate the fun of it by picking another country to win.


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