18 May 2006

super trifecta

This post is brought to you by the number 4.

Here is a curious piece of cross-sport metaphor: Joel Quenneville, current coach of the Colorado Avalanche (NHL), is quoted as follows by several writers, including Jeff Gordon of the St Louis Post Dispatch, Ray Slover of the Sporting News, Johnny Rosenstein of CBS sportsline, and an AP recap:
Look at the teams that are leading and still alive in the playoffs, from top to bottom they have quickness ... You can call it the Super Trifecta: they have size, they have speed, they have skill, and they have youth.

This metaphor begins with trifecta, a type of horse-racing bet in which the bettor chooses the top three finishers in order. OED online lists quotations for trifecta, but no definition; however, its etymology (tri + perfecta) leads you to a definition for perfecta, a bet on the placement and order of the top two finishers.

Looking for more on types of horse bets, I found this resource, which adds the following info: a superfecta is a "trifecta plus one": a bet on the placement and order of the top four finishers. A twin trifecta is a pair of trifectas: if you win a trifecta for the first race, you are eligible to use your payout to place a trifecta bet on the second. A supertrifecta is similar, except that the first bet must be a trifecta (top 3) while the second is a superfecta (top 4).

Clearly this knowledge is obscure, so any use of supertrifecta instead of superfecta is excusable in any context other than the betting window. Quenneville was invoking the "fourness" component of a superfecta bet, but pulled supertrifecta out instead. (Nice to know his knowledge of gambling is not quite so sophisticated).

But note that all this metaphor needed to be understood was a shared notion of fourness: the four crucial team qualities that Quenneville acknowledges constitute a metaphorical superfecta. But whether they constitute the top (i.e. most important) four qualities is not clear - I'm sure there are at least four others just as important (and that Quenneville also knows about).


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