The World Cup final is here at last in the Rose Bowl, the place where anyone with a hunch, a gut feeling or a painted face can select a winner before the game and have no less than a 50-50 chance of getting it right.
It's going to be Brazil or Italy, that's for sure, mainly because everyone else has already been eliminated. Choosing one of the three-time Cup winners, how tough can it be? Pretty tough, actually, especially for novices. Picking a winner with any degree of expertise, well, it's not that simple.
Just to show you that the guesswork goes like clockwork when you're really in the know, maybe it's a good idea to check with experts in the field.
Better consult the Prediction People.
Start with somebody knowledgeable about anything associated with a round ball. Make that New York Knick Coach Pat Riley, who is truly accomplished in making predictions. In 1987 when he was with the Lakers, he predicted that the Lakers would repeat in 1988 as NBA champions, which they did.
Despite his track record for prognostication, Riley is reluctant to forecast today's winner.
"I'd hate to alienate myself on a worldwide basis," Riley said.
"I feel very strongly that the two best teams are in it. It's a tossup; whoever scores first and then plays that four-corner offense like Dean Smith is sitting on the bench."
In Las Vegas, the race and sports books are counting the money wagered on the final. Vinny Magliulo, director of the race and sports book at Caesar's Palace, expects more than $5 million to be wagered legally in Nevada, which is more than the earlier projections.
Brazil is still slightly favored by the oddsmakers.
For people like weatherman Fritz Coleman of Channel 4, this is welcome news.
Coleman, who is into the predicting business, spent Friday morning with his face stuck in a telescope, studying the comet that was about to sock Jupiter. Coleman was doing this for two reasons: He wanted to make sure that comet wasn't going to make a right turn and head for California and he wanted to take his mind off the possibility that Brazil might lose.
You see, Coleman is a big Brazil-backer, and with good reason.
"That's because I am a screaming coffee addict and I don't want any international incident to stem the flow of coffee beans from Sao Paulo," he said.
He's kidding, right?
"It's so close to the truth I could cry," he said.
Sydney Omarr is as close to an expert in forecasting events as anyone, at least for the purposes of this article. For years, Omarr has written a daily syndicated astrological forecast for newspapers, The Times being one of them.
But long before Omarr followed the stars, he made predictions about people who saw them. Yes, he picked the fights. He earned his first stars for predictions in 1947 when he told the Philadelphia Record that Jersey Joe Walcott would beat Joe Louis, but he would not get the decision, which is just how it happened.
Anyway, after that, the sky was the limit for Omarr. Now, on to soccer. He agreed to predict the fortunes of three key players in today's final--Roberto Baggio of Italy and Bebeto and Romario of Brazil--using his fine-tuned astrological know-how.
Omarr was given only the players' birth dates, not their names, and here is what he came up with:
Feb. 18, 1967 (Baggio): "He has a very spiritual personality, although maybe not in the orthodox fashion. He seeks perfection and tends to be moody and ultra-sensitive. He's his own severest critic. He'll be not so good on offense. He'll be somewhat locked up. He'll have a tendency to choke."
Feb. 16, 1964 (Bebeto): "His play will be somewhat unorthodox. His team will depend on him more so than ever. He will do some sensational things and when they work he will be a hero. If they don't work, he will be subjected to criticism and ridicule. He either will be very bad or very good."
Jan. 29, 1966 (Romario): "He depends a lot on intuition. He will be very powerful. In fact, some of the players will feel as if he has taken over. He doesn't tell people what to do, he knows what should be done. And he doesn't choke."
But if you include other factors, Omarr's syndicated astrological forecast for today's World Cup final might seem inconclusive.
Baggio, Bebeto and Romario are Aquarians and, as we all know, the moon is in Scorpio for these three guys under this sign.
Now, forget the Three Tenors. Omarr's astrological forecast for the Three Aquarians today actually includes this message: "(the) ability to win on athletic field."
And is this important? Omarr's own astrological forecast (Leo) for today says, in part: "Get rid of false notions about situations, people."
So that's that. The stars don't lie, but they might fudge a little bit sometimes.
Find some more prediction experts.
John Langbein, in charge of the Parkfield quake prediction experiment for the U.S. Geological Survey, refused to make a prediction.
Actually, this may be good news for both teams, judging by the Parkfield track record--his group predicted there was a 95% chance of an earthquake of at least a 6 magnitude at Parkfield between 1985 and 1993. It didn't happen.
Someone who ought to know a thing or two about predictions is Lucile Jones of the U.S. Geological Survey and Caltech.
If the ground shakes today, she can be reasonably sure that either we are having another earthquake or Bebeto, Romario and Mazinho are dancing again.
"Let's put it this way: My son, Sven, thinks it's going to be Brazil, and he's a soccer expert," Jones said. "He's 7 and he's gone World Cup mad too."
Brad Glasman is a financial adviser for Prudential Securities in Encino. His job requires him to know something about the future, at least as far as money goes.
Anyway, Glasman is an expert in stocks, bonds and Brazil, which he thinks is going to win.
If Brazil wins, Glasman has some free advice.
"Buy Telebras, the biggest telephone company in Brazil," Glasman said. "I figure that if Brazil wins, some of those telephone bills down there are going to be astronomical and the stock is going to go sky high."
And what if Brazil loses?
"Buy the lira," Glasman said.