Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Octopus Oracle

The biggest celebrity in Germany is not anyone on the football (soccer) team  or an entertainer. Germany's biggest star during this World Cup is an octopus named Paul, who lives at the Sea Life aquarium in Oberhausen. Paul was born in England but moved to Sea Life as a very young octopus. His claim to fame is predicting how the German football team will do in its big matches.

How does Paul predict Germany's wins and losses? Aquarium workers put two clear containers with food in his enclosure. One container has a German flag and the other has Germany's opponent's flag. The container that Paul goes to first to get the food is considered his pick. The container with the German flag is not always on the same side. If Germany is considered the "home" team, it's on one side. When Germany is the "away" team, the German flag container is on the other side. 

Paul's career as an eight-armed oracle started in the 2008 European football championships. He had an 80% accuracy rate. His only error was picking Germany to beat Spain in the final. Spain won 1-0. 

At the World Cup this year Paul's psychic powers improved with age. He predicted all of Germany's wins and losses correctly. His predictions have been televised on German TV for all to see and are commented on by the newscasters. CNN, Eurosport, CBS News, and newspapers all around the world have all run stories about Paul and his game forecasts. In the preliminary round he picked German victories over Australia and Ghana and a loss to Serbia. In the second round he predicted Germany's win over England and in the third round victory over Argentina. When he predicted that Germany would lose to Spain in yesterday's semi-final, there was talk that Paul's psychic powers were on the wane. Many people in Germany thought that since Paul erred in the European championship with Spain, he would also be wrong about the World Cup semi-final. But that was not so as Spain beat Germany 1-0. 

Paul is going to be put to the test predicting the winner of Saturday's third place game between Germany and Uruguay. He will also be asked to pick the winner of the final on Sunday between Spain and the Netherlands. His picks will be televised in all of those countries. 

Now there is talk about turning Paul into calamari for picking Spain over Germany. Some German fans believe that Paul's predictions messed with the German team's heads and caused them to lose to Spain. That could be. But it was also true that Spain was the better team last night, no matter what Paul may have predicted. I hope that Paul is around for the 2012 European championships and the 2014 World Cup instead of being turned into somebody's dinner. It will be interesting to see if his psychic powers stay with him as he ages. 

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