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Cocktail Thursday: Tennessee Edition

old fashioned

If your Georgia Bulldogs are coming off an emotional conference home win and traveling to the site of several past letdowns and ligamentous breakdowns, you could probably use a drink. I can help you with that.

I find that college football fans, like everyone else, are prone to two related but distinguishable cognitive errors, known as the “hot hand fallacy” and “hindsight bias.” The hot hand fallacy is on display when you believe that an individual who has recently had success at a task determined by chance will continue to do so. That he or she “has the momentum” or “is in the zone.”

But the very nature of luck is that it changes. At some point the guy who’s hit 30 straight free throws or killed it at the craps table runs into the law of averages. Or a stiff rim. Or too many gin and tonics. The truth is that every deviation from the mean gets you that much closer to an inevitable correction.

Hindsight bias is the belief that what we now know we knew before, that we saw it coming. In truth, the past is all that is certain. The present is subject to interpretation and the future is just a damn crapshoot.

What does all of this have to do with the Georgia Bulldogs playing a college football game against the Tennessee Volunteers? More than you’d think. For one, Georgia fans right now believe that their team has developed “momentum.” It feels to some as if they’ve turned a corner and will play the way they did against Mississippi State for the foreseeable future.

That’s the hot hand fallacy at work. The ‘Dawgs are going to roll a stinker out there at some point in the near future. It’s inevitable. At some point somebody is going to get ejected on a terrible targeting call rather than the call being overruled as it was in Davin Bellamy’s favor last week. Jake Fromm will be the one whose pass is tipped and picked off rather than Nick Fitzgerald. Someone will drop the 59 yard touchdown pass rather than catching it. If you’ve watched enough college football you know this with unshakeable certainty.

The question will be how these ‘Dawgs respond. Do they shake off the breaks in one play or one quarter? Does the defense stiffen immediately and get the ball back or do they allow a quick strike score? Championships happen when you overcome adversity.

Because there is always adversity. You need Terrance Cody’s large rear end to improbably block a punt. Or Tray Matthews and Josh Harvey-Clemons tp both forget to knock the ball down. Or for Michael Johnson to go up and snag a fourth down throw in the corner. Everyone’s a winner when they have the hot hand. But the real pros are the ones who can beat you when the deck’s gone stone cold and they should be out of the game.

Hindsight bias has a way of making you forget the things you thought you knew. Many Bulldog fans now act as if they knew Jake Fromm would be a raging success from the moment he took the field. The truth is they were in a near panic as Jacob Eason limped to the locker room. Many now will tell you that this defense was always obviously one of the best in the country. In truth many of those same people thought that Notre Dame would run for 300 yards in South Bend.

And sometimes your hot hand fallacy combines with your hindsight bias to make you think you cannot lose this football game with this team.

But you can. Every football game, every week. I remember Georgia’s inglorious faceplant against the Vols in 2004. I remember Erik Ainge shredding the ‘Dawgs for 51 in 2006. And I remember Tennessee charging out to a 28-0 lead in 2007 in an attempt to save the job of embattled coach Phil Fulmer.

Georgia catches the Creamsicle Crew coming off a flat showing against UMass, with Butch Jones yelling at reporters for innocuous questions, and the vultures circling. If Tennessee loses this one they are all but officially out of the SEC East race with losses to the Athenians and the Gainesvillains. A team backed into this kind of corner is dangerous. Very dangerous.

We’ll learn a whole lot more about Kirby Smart’s squad if they weather some bad bounces, and take the best punch this battered Tennessee squad can throw. If they do that, then you’ll convince me we may be talking about something special here.

So what’s the drink for a game in which you want the good guys to take the bitterness, walk through the fire, and punch back against the guys in ugly orange? An Orange Flame.

Combine 2 ounces of vodka, one and a half ounces of freshly squeezed tangerine juice (or orange if you like your fruit full-sized), a half ounce of simple syrup, half ounce of Aperol and a half ounce of lime juice in a cocktail shaker over ice. Shake to chill and strain into a cocktail glass.

Now here’s where it gets trickier than the Neyland Stadium turf. Cut a strip of citrus peel and squeeze it with the outside of the peel facing the rim of your glass. The citrus oils will spray onto the glass. Now, touch a lit kitchen match to the rim of the glass. Yes, I’m serious. Yes, mind your eyebrows. No, don’t wear long sleeves. Do cover the glass with a solid, non-flammable, flat object to snuff the flame if it doesn’t go out within a split second on its own.

The combination of fire and citrus oil makes for a unique aroma and doesn’t really alter the taste. If you want, you can certainly omit the last, pyrotechnic step. But then you’ll never know if you could survive the fire. Until later . . .

Go ‘Dawgs!!!