Toss-up can prompt a tossing (of a coin)

  • Article by: BILL WARD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 29, 2012 - 2:44 PM

As most Minnesotans know, deadlocks often result in a game of chance.

A coin flip?

For an Olympic berth?!?

Really?!?!?

That's one proposed "solution" after 100-meter sprinters Jeneba Tarmoh and Allyson Felix finished in a dead heat at the U.S. Olympic Trials last weekend. Incredible as such a scenario might seem for a potentially once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, it's all too familiar for Minnesota sports fans.

And election followers.

State statute 204C.34 calls for a game of chance in case tallies produce a deadlock: "In case of a tie vote for nomination or election to an office, the canvassing board with the responsibility for declaring the results for that office shall determine the tie by lot."

That happened in 2008 in the northwestern Minnesota town of Goodridge, after a recount determined that former Mayor Dave Brown and incumbent Bob Homme received 44 votes apiece. Brown won.

Fourteen months later, a coin toss torpedoed the Vikings' season. In the conference championship game, the Vikings and New Orleans finished regulation time tied, and the Saints won the overtime coin flip and kicked a field goal to advance; the Vikings never got the ball. A few months later, the league altered the rule to give the team that lost the coin toss a better chance to win.

The Twins were involved in coin tosses for home-field advantage in one-game playoffs in the 2008 and 2009 seasons. They lost one (and lost the game) and won one (and won the game). Major League Baseball then deep-sixed the coin flip and went to a new tiebreaker (season series winner).

Elsewhere, a coin flip was used to determine the naming of what became Oregon's largest city (the land was owned by men from Boston and Portland, Maine), and Arizona election ties were resolved with one hand of poker (in 1992) and a roll of the dice (in 2008).

As much as Americans favor games of chance, Japan might hold the, er, trump card in this realm. When Christie's and Sotheby's couldn't divide a $20 million art collection for auction, the paintings' owner decreed a solution:

Rock, paper, scissors.

Really.

Bill Ward • 612-673-7643

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