There I was, there I was, there I was … starting the Q&A at the end of my Opening Plenary for the 3500 scientists attending the Society of Freshwater Scientists meeting in Portland (probably about 1000 of whom came to my talk), only to be totally called out.  No excuses.  A classic moment.


SPOT THE MISTAKE.   It was right there.  I blew it.



So I was talking about positive and null results in scientific research. Not all outcomes are created equal.  There’s a natural predilection for positive results versus null. And I thought up a fun way to look at this dynamic drawing on your knowledge of football.

How many famous quarterbacks can you name? Lots. They create the “positive” patterns in a football game. Now how many linebackers can you name. They work to create null results (no scoring). You probably can’t name many.

I put up this slide, saying I’m not a rabid NFL fan, but off the top of my head I can name all of these quarterbacks plus probably a couple dozen more if pushed.

But what about linebackers? I hit the clicker, up came the name of Ditka, and I said, “this is about it—Mike Ditka.”

I finished the talk. The first guy up for the Q&A, boldly, brashly, bravely offered up his comment as an ABT. He said, “I really enjoyed this talk AND you made a lot of great points, BUT … Ditka was a tight end, THEREFORE you might want to fix that.”

In an instant I was the laughing stock. Stooopid, careless communications dude. I wanted to say, “I knew that,” but it was too late — everyone was in hysterics.

But thankfully someone shouted out, “YOU WERE THINKING OF DICK BUTKUS!”  And he was right. Ditka — Dick Butkus. Hopefully you can see how I might make the mistake. No?

That was bad. Never again. Great crowd and a great evening. Really fun. And a perfectly executed ABT to steal my thunder — well done and a memorable moment!