Ben Cohen is a reporter for The Wall Street Journal's sports page and the author of a book called "The Hot Hand."
Who doesn’t like ketchup? It is one of the most universally loved American foods. Why? This episode begins with some interesting facts and history about ketchup that helps explain why there is a bottle of it in more than 97% of U.S. households. you ever had a winning streak? Maybe it was at work or in a game of tennis or chess – where you just could do no wrong. You often see winning streaks in professional sports. Interestingly, some people claim that winning streaks are a myth. However, my guest believes they are very real and that we can all learn how to do anything better by understanding how winning streaks work. Ben Cohen is a sports reporter for The Wall Street Journal and author of the book, The Hot Hand: The Mystery and Science of Streaks ( and he joins me to offer some fascinating insight into winning and losing streaks.At some point in your education some teacher likely told you that you should never end a sentence with a preposition. However, anyone who writes knows that to follow that rule can be very awkward. So, is it really a rule? Listen as I explain where it came from and whether you should bother following it. Source: Patricia O’Connor author of “Woe Is I” ( all have times when we really need to do work that requires real careful concentration. Yet in today’s world of distractions, it can be hard to find the time to do that kind of work without interruption. Cal Newport has researched this problem and come up with some great insight into how to get that important work done even when your life is pulling you in all different directions. Cal is a writer and an assistant professor of computer science at Georgetown University and host of the podcast Deep Questions. He is also author of the book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World (  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
For decades, statisticians, social scientists, psychologists, and economists (among them Nobel Prize winners) have spent massive amounts of precious time thinking about whether streaks actually exist.After all, a substantial number of decisions that we make in our everyday lives are quietly rooted in this one question: If something happened before, will it happen again? Is there such a thing as being in the zone? Can someone have a “hot hand”? Or is it simply a case of seeing patterns in randomness? Or, if streaks are possible, where can they be found?In The Hot Hand: The Mystery and Science of Streaks (Custom House, 2020), Wall Street Journal reporter Ben Cohen offers an unfailingly entertaining and provocative investigation into these questions.He begins with how a $35,000 fine and a wild night in New York revived a debate about the existence of streaks that was several generations in the making. We learn how the ability to recognize and then bet against streaks turned a business school dropout named David Booth into a billionaire, and how the subconscious nature of streak-related bias can make the difference between life and death for asylum seekers. We see how previously unrecognized streaks hidden amidst archival data helped solve one of the most haunting mysteries of the twentieth century, the disappearance of Raoul Wallenberg.Cohen also exposes how streak-related incentives can be manipulated, from the five-syllable word that helped break arcade profit records to an arc of black paint that allowed Stephen Curry to transform from future junior high coach into the greatest three-point shooter in NBA history.Crucially, Cohen also explores why false recognition of nonexistent streaks can have cataclysmic results, particularly if you are a sugar beet farmer or the sort of gambler who likes to switch to black on the ninth spin of the roulette wheel.Paul Knepper was born and raised in New York and currently resides in Austin. He used to cover basketball for Bleacher Report and his first book titled Knicks of the Nineties: Ewing, Oakley, Starks and the Brawlers Who Almost Won It All is due out this year. You can reach Paul at and follow him on Twitter @paulieknep. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Sarah talks to Ben Cohen of The Wall Street Journal about his book The Hot Hand, including the interesting reason why the creator of NBA Jam came up with "he's on fire," how we invent causes to explain patterns, the differences between the hot hand and flow state, how the best work of creators comes in bunches, and how The Princess Bride finally got made because of a creative hot hand.
Bloomberg Opinion columnist Barry Ritholtz speaks with Ben Cohen, NBA correspondent for the Wall Street Journal. His new book is “The Hot Hand: The Mystery and Science of Streaks.”
View 3 more appearances
Share Profile
Are you Ben? Verify and edit this page to your liking.

Share This Creator

Recommendation sent

Join Podchaser to...

  • Rate podcasts and episodes
  • Follow podcasts and creators
  • Create podcast and episode lists
  • & much more

Creator Details

New York, New York, United States of America
Episode Count
Podcast Count
Total Airtime
6 hours, 13 minutes
Podchaser Creator ID logo 962104