Last week we learned that Inflation is soaring (reportedly at the highest levels since 1981) and growth is anemic.

Hello Stagflation! You heard it first (last July).

These numbers cannot come as much of a revelation to many of us. Milk and gas are $4.00 per gallon. Coffee is $4.00 per pound. Bread is $2.00 per loaf. In truth, these official statistics from the Department of Labor merely confirm what we have known for months. Chalk up the collective surprise to the inherent human power to delude ourselves into believing what we desperately want to see.

Hello Reality. Statistics catch up to life. To paraphrase Mary Chapin Carpenter, the Stars Might Lie, but eventually the numbers come around...

The Other Big Numbers that don't seem to make sense right now: McCain versus Obama.

The ubiquitous question: why is this race so tight?

Blah-Blah Nyborg writes this week:

Oh, let's just admit it: John McCain is a long shot. He's got a heroic personal story, and being white has never hurt a presidential candidate, but on paper 2008 just doesn't look like his year. And considering what's happening off paper, it might be time to ask the question the horse-race-loving media are never supposed to ask: Is McCain a no-shot?

No argument from me. I have said basically the same thing for months (although the "white" crack is gratuitous and misleading).

But seriously folks, who in their right mind would vote for John McCain for president?

Me--but I don't count---long story.

Why is McCain hanging in there on the national polls when all political science models, recent political history, and all conventional wisdom suggest that Obama ought to be up thirty points right now?

An Aside: is this somehow connected to the question from the spring: why can't he [Obama] put her [Clinton] away?

Eventually he did. And, chances are, he eventually will.

But what is going on?

I have been thinking about upsets lately. What is the dynamic of a mind-blowing, logic-defying upset?

Most upsets don't happen. Obvious, right? Most underdogs lose. An over-matched team may hang in for a while, fight the good fight, maybe even lead during the first quarter. But, eventually, the sky collapses on them--and the blowout commences.

But not always. There is a phenomenon we know as upsets. They do happen.

Two cases in point: Villanova-Georgetown, 1985, and NC State-U of H, 1983.

Rollie Massimino and the low-seeded Villanova Wildcats out-thought and out-fought the incredibly talented defending-champion Georgetown Hoyas to squeeze out perhaps the most shocking victory in all of American sports history in the 1985 NCAA Final. According to legend, Massimino predicted the exact number of points it would take to win the game and wrote it on the locker room chalkboard before tipoff. Villanova had a plan, and they worked it to perfection--shooting 78 percent from the field along the way. They maintained a thin lead for most of the game, and they never faltered, doubted, or faded under pressure.

If you watched that Final you may remember thinking no team (and certainly not Villanova) can maintain this level of excellence for an entire game. But they did. And Villanova prevailed--by two points (66-64).

Is John McCain Villanova? Does John McCain have a Rollie Massimino behind the scenes with a master strategy? No and No. John McCain has no plan, and he will not play brilliantly from now until the buzzer. Villanova-Georgetown offers little encouragement to Camp McCain.

However, remember the great Final Four upset of 1983. Jimmy Volvano and the Wolfpack of North Carolina State stunned a heavily favored University of Houston Cougars team, chocked full of future NBA Hall of Famers. "Phi Slamma Jamma." That was a crazy game in which the Cougars could never quite pull away, tightened up a bit down the stretch, and allowed their inexperience and their over-confidence to get the best of them. The Wolfpack hung around, hung around, and as the game devolved into chaos in the final seconds, a star NC State player shot an air ball which serendipitously landed in the hands of a role player standing in the right place at the right time, and he forcefully dunked it home to win a national championship for State by two points. SHOCKER!!!

Cue Jimmy V. racing around the court with his hands in the air looking for someone to hug.


Possible? Maybe. McCain is much more the unstructured wild man hanging in there and needing a break at crunch time. But, who knows, things at least this strange have happened.

Do you believe in miracles!?!