Sure, people always miscalculate. We drink too much at a party, scrape our side mirrors, spend $3.8 trillion while taking in only $2.5 trillion in taxes. We are risk takers at heart: fracking shale, driving with Amanda Bynes and reading poorly written S&M novels in public. But risk takers are not the people who messed up in 2012. This year, reasonable people went wrong making wise decisions and getting totally hosed. This was the year of the bad call.
NFL owners thought no one would notice if they used replacement refs during a labor dispute, since all refs--zebras--dress exactly the same. Then the scab refs blew the outcome of a Monday Night Football game so dramatically that when the owners settled with the pro refs, fans were so thrilled that they waited an entire week before yelling at their TVs about how stupid the pro refs are. After two years of editorials warning that the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision was going to let rich people control politics, rich people reasonably tried to control politics. And failed. Conservative billionaires such as Sheldon Adelson, the Koch brothers and Foster Freiss wasted more than $100 million, which they could have done simply by paying higher taxes.
It all seemed so safe. After all, how could you lose by getting in on the Facebook IPO? What permanent stain on our musical culture could be left by just clicking on a link to a Korean rapper's YouTube video? Who's going to see this small, microbudget Middle Eastern action movie financed by a wacky Coptic Christian guy? How could Egyptians get upset about Mohamed Morsi's grabbing a little more power right after he cut the Palestinians a sweet deal with Israel? Why not give an Oscar-winning octogenarian icon the chair he's requested just before speaking at the Republican Convention? What is a more reasonable newsmagazine cover line right before the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision than one calling Justice Anthony Kennedy "The Decider"?
Meanwhile, the gamblers all won. A little remote-control car thrilled people with its double-bank-shot landing on Mars despite the fact--proved by the film John Carter--that no one cares about Mars. That Austrian Evel Knievel guy Felix Baumgartner safely parachuted to earth from some sort of a spaceship while--and this was the crazy part--hopped up on Red Bull. Scientists found the Higgs boson despite the fact that every time they went to look for it, they first had to spend three hours explaining it to everyone. The White House defended Obamacare with an argument so dumb that the conservative Supreme Court actually laughed at it, despite the fact that--as with Lindsay Lohan's Lifetime movie about Elizabeth Taylor--no one was trying to be funny. Frank Ocean ignited his career of singing sexy songs to a black audience with a Tumblr post about his relationship with a man. DreamWorks made a hit movie out of a Doris Kearns Goodwin book. In the most insane yet successful risk of all, Germany bankrolled the 3,000-year-old Greek civilization for another year.