With the due date of the biggest paper I have ever written in my educational career just under 48 hours away, and the Winter Olympics in full force, I was reminded of a theory I created back in the late 90s: the Tara Lipinski Theory.
Back in the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, a 15-year-old Tara Lipinski won the gold medal in women’s figure skating. As suprising as this was, it was more surprising that she defeated the overwhelming favorite Michelle Kwan. Many have theorized why this happened (including that Lipinski had more energy and that her program was more technically difficult), but most agree it was because Kwan skated towards the beginning of the group and Lipinski skated at the end. It has been understood that judges save room for better scores to occur as the night goes on, so although Kwan didn’t fall once and had a perfect run, because Lipinski was equally as perfect, and was one of the last skaters she edged out Kwan.
Throughout my life, I have seen this theory apply to all types of situations. For instance, say you partake in speed dating (admittedly, the only time I’ve ever actually seen this done is in the 40 Year Old Virgin, and that scene provides the best Paul Rudd scene in the movie). Obviously, you are not going to settle on the first awesome girl you meet. You are going to keep that first awesome girl in the back of your mind and go talk to the rest of the girls at this event, looking for someone even better and “saving room” for improvement. Towards the end you meet another equally awesome girl, and the odds are, because she is fresh in your mind and right in front of you, you will ask her to get coffee or take a ride in your Neo Geo, instead of asking the first girl. This situation can apply to anytime when you are picking something out (think about Halloween costumes–you look at a ton of equally awesome ones and then settle on the last awesome one because, quite frankly, nothing really stands out above the rest and settling on the first costume you see is just not fun).
This probably also applies to teachers grading papers, which is why this theory is so relevant right now. Most likely, a teacher will not give an A to the first paper he or she reads. This is because, if he or she does give an A to the first paper, this teacher has created a questionable standard and leaves no saves no room for improvement. If the paper is far superior to the rest of the papers, this will be the only A, which in undergrad or high school is ridiculously unfair, and in law school pretty much assures the rest of the class of Bs. It could also set the bar a little too low. This paper might be great, but there might be an even greater paper that is the, say, fourth paper read. Then what do you give this paper? An A+? And what about if that one is beat? An A++? Thus, room for improvement is probably given, and the first paper gets the short end of the stick. So, you better pray your paper is in the middle of the pack.