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Columns > David Steinberg - Some Are Mathematicians

Published: 2012/10/31
by David Steinberg

Dodging the Bullet

I am writing this column on October 30, 2012. On this day it’s very hard not to reflect back where many of us were two years prior. It was a rather stunning day for the time of the year in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Phish were in the middle show of their three show Halloween run at Boardwalk Hall. Much to the surprise of everyone, it became a Led Zeppelin-fest, culminating in a Tweezer that became a Zeppelin medley. It was one of those unexpected moments that keep people coming back to shows. While it doesn’t really hold up on tape, it was amazing live. People were screaming and high-fiving strangers all the way back to their hotels. This year is a lot different. Instead of a pleasant 60-degree sunny day, the city is recovering from a massive hurricane. There’s no question that if the Halloween run were this year that the entire event would have been canceled, potentially leaving people stranded thousands of miles from home.

While it’s only the coincidence of the calendar that makes this out to be a missed danger, this is not the first time Phish have been fortunate. Sure, some of the festivals have had hot spells (looking at you here Oswego), but – for the most part – they have been blessed with incredible weather. The biggest event in Phish’s history was also potentially risky; despite its reputation it can get down to the 30s in Miami. Even northeastern New Years runs have been lucky. Only 2010 and 1993 were really affected by snow and even the massive storm of 2010 took a fortuitous turn and pummeled New Jersey instead of the expected Worcester center.

What about Coventry? Even there, it so easily could have been worse. By the time fans arrived the damage had been done, but the storms had passed by. Imagine the same situation only with the rain occurring during the event. Instead of people being unable to get into the lot, what would have happened if 50,000 cars had become stuck in the mud, requiring every single tow truck in the state of Vermont to untangle the mess? Imagine trying to enjoy the Coventry Glide in a massive downpour and then discovering that your parking space was a quagmire. There might not have been the whole shoe sucking mud situation and the defining moment of Mike coming on The Bunny would never have happened, but I still think that would have been an even bigger disaster.

So how did Phish get so lucky over the years? Most likely, it’s simple probabilities. There are so few massive events in their career and while extreme weather sticks in everyone’s memories, odds are that the two wouldn’t coincide.

Still though, while the math works out that way, it’s hard to not look at the calendar and then the pictures of the destruction and wonder what could have been. Sure, it probably makes sense that it’s unlikely to have a Halloween run coincide with one of the biggest storms in New Jersey’s history, but if you were one of those who walked out of Boardwalk Hall with a huge grin on your face and you have a few extra dollars, now would be a good time to “help out.”: Between the Waterwheel Table and the Mockingbird Foundation and the Mimi Fishman auctions, Phish fans have always been generous. Call this one the TweeZeppelin Fund.


David Steinberg got his Masters Degree in mathematics from New Mexico State University in 1994. He first discovered the power of live music at the Capital Centre in 1988 and never has been the same. His Phish stats website is at and he’s on the board of directors for The Mockingbird Foundation. He occasionally posts at the blog and has a daily update on the Phish Stats Facebook page

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