Imagine you meet this terrific gentleman (no ring) at a place wherever people meet people. You hit it off, you go on a couple dates, and you think this guy could figure prominently in your future. You are hanging out in his apartment/condo/bungalow/villa one day thinking how awesome life is when suddenly the door opens, and in walks his wife who was away on a teaching sabbatical. You have just been thrown a big-league curveball.
You expected something and were delivered another thing, making you look foolish. That is what a curveball does in baseball. The hitter is thinking a fastball is coming (fastballs come in straight and with a lot of velocity), but the pitch is actually a curve (curves look like fastballs until the very end when they break sharply downward).
The effect is something awesome to behold. Hitters have roughly .25 to .3 seconds to react to a fastball traveling at 90mph+. Curveballs are significantly slower, ranging from 70mph to almost 85mph in some cases. The change in speed and the sharp break (curves break downward usually in a 12 to 6 or 1 to 7 plane if you pictured the numbers on a clock) can flummox even the best hitters.
Reggie Jackson, one of the most fearsome hitters of all-time, said “Everyone likes fastballs just like everyone likes ice cream.” Fastballs, while fast, can always be timed. The human brain, in all of its glory, knows where that ball will end up before the ball even arrives based on the straight path of the ball. Conversely, the human brain struggles to pinpoint where the curveball will end up.
The fact is, you may know a curve is coming, you may see the curve coming, the pitcher can even tell you the curve is coming, but that does not mean you are going to hit it. Much like having your happiness blown up by that wife walking through the door, the curve catches you by surprise and makes you look stupid.
Something to try: Start calling your surprising situations “curveballs.” Example: “The weather forecast called for sunny skies so I did not bring my umbrella. The weather threw me a curveball because it started to rain like crazy and I got all wet.”