We Knew They’d Win

By: Jordan Benavides 

The city of Boston has been glorified by historic sports teams like The New England Patriots, which has pleased the city with five Super Bowl wins since 2002. Led by arguably the greatest quarterback of all-time Tom Brady and multiple players with Super Bowl experience, a 21-3 halftime deficit during Super Bowl LI was “obviously” nothing to worry about for their supporters and some players.

After the Patriots had completed the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, many of their fans claimed “they knew it all along.” Even one of their own players, Matthew Slater claimed to be calm about the huge hole they had put themselves in. “No panic. We are squatting 80 percent of our maxes on Super Bowl week. We worked for this,” he said. Another one of their players, Chris Hogan said, “There wasn’t a doubt in my mind. We have one of the best quarterbacks that ever played the game.”

The look on most of the Patriots and even their fans didn’t express much confidence when they were down 25. Broadcasters praised the play of the Atlanta Falcons as cameras kept showing a look of defeat in the eyes of Tom Brady, who AFTER winning the game claimed he “wasn’t thinking much” when the Falcons went up 28-3 during the third quarter.

Optimism? Cockiness? Both? Or just your average case of the hindsight bias. Also humorously known as the I-knew-it-all-along phenomenon, hindsight bias occurs when we don’t expect something to happen, but when it does, we claim to have “known it all along.” The hindsight bias is composed of three levels. Memory distortion, inevitability, and foreseeability (Roese 2012).

These three levels were all clear and seen during Super Bowl LI.

Level One: Memory Distortion

There’s no question some Patriots and their fans had to have given up during the start of the 4th quarter. The second they finally tied the game, all those negative thoughts quickly disappeared.

Before comeback: “Damn, it’s over. We lost.”

After comeback: “I knew we’d come back!” (Previous opinion gone like it never came)

Level Two: Inevitability

One has to justify this complete change in opinion after the amazing comeback.

“The falcons didn’t have enough experience. Tom Brady’s the greatest, he played in 6 Super Bowls before this, he had to bring us back.”

Level Three: Foreseeability

“I knew we’d come back, and win!” (Or every other Patriot quote mentioned above)

The hindsight bias comes up frequently in sporting events, especially if you’re a “die hard” fan. Everyone loves “knowing” that it was going to happen, even after the majority has given up. Patriot nation didn’t look like they had much confidence when Stephen Gostkowski clanged the extra point field goal off the post to end the 3rd quarter. They didn’t look confident when Tom Brady was sacked for a fifth time during the 4th quarter. But with the Patriots being the historic franchise they are, who could have doubted this historic comeback???   


Pells, E. (2017, February 6). Patriots Comeback Tops Them All. Retrieved February 10, 2017, from http://newbostonpost.com/2017/02/06/patriots-comeback-tops-them-all/


Roese, N. J. (2012). Hindsight Bias. Association For Psychological Science. Retrieved February 10, 2017, from http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1745691612454303


Tom Brady’s Super Bowl LI Press Conference, “Been on the Other Side of Those Catches”(2017,February 05). Retrieved February 13, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N1pkGdGHKWM

3 thoughts on “We Knew They’d Win”

  1. Jordan, this is a great post!

    From personal experience, I can attest to the fact that hindsight bias is especially prevalent when it comes to sports. As a die-hard baseball and Yankees fan, whenever there’s a close game or a game with a large deficit in scoring, I sometimes tend to doubt the Yankees’ ability to win. That being said; however, when they come back and win it, the doubt of them winning seems to slip my mind. It’s as if I always knew that the greatest baseball team in history wouldn’t let me down.

    Aside from hindsight bias, this topic could also relate to affective forecasting. Affective forecasting suggests that people have a hard time predicting the intensity and duration of their future emotions. When it comes to sports, we tend to overestimate how we’ll feel after our favorite team wins. Similarly, we overestimate how we’ll feel if they lose. After a devastating loss, it’s easy to feel like the crushing feeling will last forever. More often than not; however, that feeling wears off shortly. Furthermore, the ecstatic feeling that we feel right after our team wins is a powerful one, but it usually wears off quicker than we imagined. Without a doubt, I’m sure many people were experiencing these emotions after the Super Bowl.

  2. Jordan this is a really interesting post and very well written!

    I do not really know much about sports, I did not even watch the Superbowl. But I did observe those die-hard football fans after the game was over and saw what you were talking about. I never thought about it before but there definitely is hindsight bias when it comes to sports. I really like that you made it really easy to understand for someone, like me, who does not know really anything about sports.

    I believe an illusion of control can also come into play here. Towards the end of the game when the Patriots were winning, or even after they won, people might have believed that the players had control over the situation the whole time. When in fact it was probably just a stroke of luck that got them back on their feet.

    Again really great job on your topic I really enjoyed reading it!

  3. Jordan, I believe this is a really great post. I love how you connected it to hindsight bias. I thought it was very funny because that is what happens in reality with many sports teams and sports fans. Many people love their sports teams, but begin to lose faith in them when it may look like a win might not be possible. But as soon as the victory is clinched they seem to appear as if they always knew what was going to happen. Each sport fan has a hindsight bias, it is just the pride that comes with victory for their team. O.W.

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