Computer ties for Panel o' Experts title

Accuscore, the electronic version of a dart-throwing monkey, ties Merril Hoge, also of ESPN, for the NFL game-picking championship.

By King Kaufman

Published January 29, 2009 3:35PM (EST)

This column's 2008 NFL Panel o' Experts ended in a tie. Merril Hoge of ESPN correctly picked the winner 171 times out of the 256 NFL games played this year, earning him the human championship and a share of the prize with Accuscore, ESPN's game-simulating computer, which also went 171-84-1.

It's the third year in a row the NFL Panel o' Experts has had co-winners, and the second year in a row the winners have had 171 wins, though this year's winning percentage of .670 is a slight improvement on last year's .668 by Mark Schlereth and Jeff Zillgitt because of the tie game. Last year's winners got 85 games wrong, not 84. The record for correct picks is 180, by Sean Salisbury in 2005.

But those other two ties were between two human beings. So Bush administration, don't you think? Now that we're in the tech-savvy Obama age, it's only fitting that our new computer overlords begin the takeover. I mean make their contribution to a better way of life.

Hoge and Accuscore continue the streak of ESPN representatives winning at least a share of the Panel o' Experts title every year since its inception in 2003.

The prize for this and all other contests around here has traditionally been dinner at this column's house. But it recently occurred to me: I've got this thing and it's f---ing golden! So what Hoge and Accuscore have won is an opportunity to bid on dinner at my house -- home cooking not implied. The bidding starts at only $10,000. There's no need to be greedy.

Both Hoge and Accuscore have been middle-of-the-pack performers before their breakout 2008 seasons, which is probably an indication of the randomness of the results and the role of luck in the standings. However, it makes better copy to argue that Hoge and Accuscore have found redemption through hard work, faith, a new training program and the love of a good woman.

This column had a rough year, finishing 18th out of 21 with a record of 151-104-1. Behind me were Curt Siffert, who freely admits his Beatpaths system isn't very good at picking the winners of games; Adriana Sage, a pornstar who skipped picking several games; and my daughter Daisy, the coin-flippinest 3-year-old in North America.

Daisy will have her dinner rations cut by 20 percent for finishing in last place, as will my son Buster, the game-pickinest 5-year-old in the Western Hemisphere, who dared to beat me in the standings. As a parent, I demand success from my children. Just not more success than the old man.

Here are the standings. The overall winning percentage of the Panel, coin excluded, was .630, comfortably between the high of .656 in 2005 and the low of .593 in that wacky, unpredictable 2006.

Name W-L Pct.
1. Accuscore 171-84-1 .670
1. Merril Hoge, ESPN 171-84-1 .670
3. Chris Mortensen, ESPN 169-86-1 .662
4. Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News 167-88-1 .654
5. Michael Silver, Yahoo 165-90-1 .645
6. Jeff Zillgitt, USA Today 164-91-1 .643
7. Football Outsiders 163-91-1 .641
8. Eric Allen, ESPN 163-92-1 .637
9. Peter King, Sports Illustrated 162-93-1 .635
9. Mark Schlereth, ESPN 162-93-1 .635
11. Jarrett Bell, USA Today 161-94-1 .631
11. Charles Robinson, Yahoo 161-94-1 .631
13. Yahoo Users 160-95-1 .627
14. Larry Weisman, USA Today 157-98-1 .615
15. Ron Jaworski, ESPN 156-81-1 .658
16. Mike Golic, ESPN 155-99-1 .610
17. Buster, 5YearOldPicks 153-102-1 .600
18. King Kaufman, Salon 151-104-1 .592
19. Curt Siffert, Beatpaths 150-105-1 .588
20. Adriana Sage, EroticModelPicks 149-100-1 .598
21. Daisy, Coinflip News 142-113-1 .557

The previous champions were:

2007: Mark Schlereth, ESPN; Jeff Zillgitt, USA Today, 171 wins
2006: Mike Golic, ESPN; Charles Robinson, Yahoo, 161
2005: Sean Salisbury, ESPN, 180
2004: Sean Salisbury, ESPN, 164
2003: Ron Jaworski, ESPN, 175

King Kaufman

King Kaufman is a senior writer for Salon. You can e-mail him at king at salon dot com. Facebook / Twitter / Tumblr

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