Dancing with the Odds
It's tough to win on Dancing with the Stars; first of all, just to get on the show you have to be at least a minor celebrity. And even if we harbor D-List hopes, not too many of us are serious about dancing: the odds an adult will take a dance class other than ballet in a year are 1 in 142.9.
If, however, you want to win a bet on who is going to take the prize on Dancing with the Stars, that's where we can help, with a non-scientific but fun look at past results. It shouldn't be too hard to find someone to argue with: the odds a household will watch Dancing with the Stars on ABC in a week are 1 in 9.09.
A soap star, an astronaut, an Olympic skater, a girl-group singer, a wide receiver, a dating show hunk—it may read like a new incarnation of Gilligan's Island, but these are some of the contestants on the current, tenth season of ABC's hit ballroom-dancing show. Dancing with the Stars pairs non-dancer celebrities with professional hoofers in a series of elimination rounds, and the celebrities who've won have all been people who use their bodies in some way, like models Kelly Monaco and Brooke Burke. Even the singers who've won (Drew Lachey and Donny Osmond), as former boy-group members, have experience with stage choreography, if not the Viennese Waltz.
So, we might want to go with a person known for his or her physicality, rather than betting on a reality star like Jake Pavelka, a TV journalist like Erin Andrews, or an octogenarian astronaut like Buzz Aldrin.
But we can go further.
Over the first nine seasons, only 21 out of 93 contestants have been professional athletes—that's 1 in 4.43. Yet athletes have won five of the nine previous contests. So the odds of an athlete winning Dancing with the Stars, judging from the results of Seasons 1 - 9, are a healthy 1 in 1.8 (56%).
To pick a winner, then, your best bet is to get really physical and select a sports star.
Can we go further still?
Among this season's 11 contestants are two athletes, from very different arenas: Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco and Olympic ice skating gold medalist Evan Lysacek. A win by an NFL pro would not be unprecedented; running back Emmitt Smith won Season 3. Neither would a win by Lysacek; skater Kristi Yamaguchi went home with Season 6 honors.
The remaining three past athlete-winners are gymnast Shawn Johnson, speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno, and race car driver Hélio Castroneves. Do they and Yamaguchi have something in common that puts them in opposition to the football players? Speed and/or agility seem to be important, rather than sheer size. That might argue for Lysacek. On the other hand, gymnasts and skaters also have to be strong, like football players, not just agile. And wide receivers like Ochocinco have to be fast. So in principle, he ought to have a decent shot too.
Of course, there are plenty of other factors to consider. Who is the contestant's professional partner? How much natural talent and grace for dancing do they have? What did the judges eat for breakfast? But for a quick, non-scientific method of picking a winner, based on a tiny sample size no pollster would approve, you could do worse, in any given season, than putting your money on an athlete.