The Jersey guys knew

This three-day "election night" has really messed with my mind. I have had trouble doing much of anything but watch the "map show."

But it's had its personal benefits. Quite unexpectedly, it put me back in touch with an old Jersey friend, and the ghost of another.

On Tuesday night, when I was tearing my hair out and checking the immigration laws of Portugal, I heard from my old college mate Jim Fusilli, a Hoboken guy who's been a writer for the Wall Street Journal all these years, and a novelist too. Jim chimed in on my Facebook feed and advised me to chill out. Most of the Democratic votes in places like Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Detroit hadn't been counted, he said. And when they are, it will all turn out fine.

At that point, Michigan and Wisconsin were glowing red on my TV screen, and Biden was down 660,000 in Pennsylvania. I didn't listen to Jim. I had to start crunching the numbers for myself.

But hey, that guy didn't get to where he is by being a dummy. And here we are this morning, wow. The Secret Service just put the full detail on Biden and Harris. Unbelievable to me. But it's just like Fusilli tried to tell me on Tuesday night.

So a shout-out to him.

In my panicky number-crunching, which eventually got me to the right answer, it took me more than a couple of minutes to work out the equations. What percentage of the remaining vote would Biden need to take in Pennsylvania to get ahead of Trump?

It was right out of ninth-grade Algebra class. And lucky for me I had a great teacher for that one: a guy named Charles Rooney.

He had been an Army sergeant in World War II, and he knew the benefit of drills. Lessons learned from him don't fade, at least not for me. There were a few cobwebs to be cleared, but before too long, I remembered what this called for.

And then there I was, scribbling away and reliving word problems from 54 years before. Simultaneous equations! And here we all wondered if we would ever use Algebra.

Mr. Rooney left this world about 10 years ago. He'd be around 100 years old today. But his spirit has been alive on my desk for a couple of days now. I figured out what Biden needed, saw that it was eminently do-able, and then watched as it unfolded.

Thanks to him.


  1. I wonder if you had any great math teachers for probability? I took a probability course along the way and it was really helpful. For example, chance has no memory. I've never forgotten that phrase. It means if you flip a coin 100 times and the first 99 are heads, the odds of heads on the last flip are still 50-50 as long as the coin is legit. What goes before has no bearing on the chances ahead.
    Politics, on the other hand, has quite a memory. If for example the Democrats of Georgia feel they were jobbed in the Stacey Abrams race back in 2018, they were going to be ready to impact 2020. Much of this was legit and justified but my probability red light started flashing when Trump was way ahead there, and it hasn't stopped now that he's lost Georgia. Do you know what happened in Georgia? A water main broke where they keep the ballots. Darn the luck. In fact, it was in the room where the absentee ballots were stored. I for one think it is terribly unfair that such a random occurrence would just happen to them at such a critical time and cast doubt on the count in Georgia. I guess it shows that even the most improbable things can come along when you least expect them. Thanks goodness it was the only improbable thing that happened this week. Otherwise people might begin to think this thing was rigged.

    1. We did not study probability. In New Jersey, you study inevitability.

    2. Nice to see the Jersey roots are still there. You had a sentence in an earlier PA post where I thought, "He's got to be kidding. Either that or New Jersey's going to disown him." Let me see if I can find it. Here goes: "My goodness, it's taking them a long time to process the mail-in ballots. I guess they must count them by hand on an abacus or something." Sure, that's why it took them so long. The votes were all legit but they were counting them with an abacus.
      I like how this would look in a Blazers game. The Blazers would be done by 20 at the end of regulation but they'd announce we were going to overtime. Slowly they would close the gap until the moment they're ahead. Then the final buzzer would sound. Blazers win! Blazers win!

  2. New Jersey ballots are pretty much the same as ballots in other states except the Vice President is listed as the Underboss.

  3. Jack

    Bob Knox here. I occasionally read your old blog which was brought to my attention by either Pete Wolf or Mike Whelan (both deceased). In fact, in the old blog post on Chuck Rooney, I wrote the "Eugene Sanzo" and "John Staub" comments.
    Two of my closest friends moved from Tulsa to Portland (talk about Red to Blue!) about two years ago and I have been out there to visit them a few times. When the "protests" began, I found your new blog and have been checking in, as have my Portland friends - both lawyers, by the way - and we love your witty and insightful commentary. I still stay in touch with and occasionally see Rich McMahon and Rich Regan ('69) and some of the Montclair Prepsters. And I can still do decent impersonations of Latin Lou, Gene Sanzo and Mr. Duffy which was my main talent at Prep. Hope you are well and safe!

    1. Knox! Long time no hear, like 50 years. I hope you get back out here , and please let me know when you do. I had a few fine hours with Rich McMahon when he visited a few years ago. Flimlin and I caught Pete's son's band here one great night a while ago. My sister's in Bloomfiield, and when I'm back there (once a year before the plague) we walk around Montclair. Anyway, great to hear from you, Mr. Sanzo. The world is small.


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