by Gus Ramsey
"Very superstitious, nothing more to say..."
The date is January 25th, 1998. I am watching Super Bowl XXXII in my condo. My Broncos, 4-time losers of the big game, are playing the Green Bay Packers. For the occasion I have banished my wife upstairs so I can watch the game with no interruptions. She is the root of Pulling a Jackie, so it was justified. (she's actually pulling a Jackie as I write this blog!)
With about 8 minutes left in the first half the Broncos lead 17-7. I was cautiously optimistic. So when Jackie asked if she could come down to the kitchen for a minute, I put my guard down and said "fine."
17 plays, 95 yards and 7:26 later, Brett Favre tossed a gorgeous pass to Mark Chmura in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown. Denver 17- Green Bay 14.
"Sweetie. I love you. Now get your ass back up stairs!"
I am not a superstitious person. I can walk under ladders. I don't fear black cats. Heck, I was married on Friday the 13th. But when it comes to sports, things change. I watch sporting events thinking that somehow, some way, my rooting karma effects the outcome of games. If I am wearing a shirt or a hat of one of my teams in a big game, and things are going poorly, I change. When I was a teenager and the Broncos were on Monday Night Football, I would decorate the family den with all the Bronco paraphernalia I owned. If things weren't going well, I would re-decorate the room in a mad scramble like Tom Cruise in Risky Business trying to clean up before his folks got home. Karma had to be changed and it had to happen quickly. And with John Elway pulling off come-from-behind miracles all the time, it was hard not to believe these alterations didn't have some kind of impact.
The date is October 19, 1999. The Mets and Braves are playing game 6 of the NLCS. The Mets were down three games to two and had allowed five runs in the first inning. I was in my condo watching on TV and had turned my attention to my computer. I had my back to the TV and the game was basically background noise. In the top of the 6th the Mets got a rally going. Alfonzo double, Olerud single, Piazza sac fly, Ventura double. After the Olerud single I had started watching again. When Piazza flew out, it hit me, "Don't watch!! You look back for one batter and they made an out. Don't watch!" So I turned my back to the TV again and listened to the rest of the inning without daring a single peek. The Mets scored three times and cut the lead to 5-3. Watching again, the Braves scored twice in the bottom of the inning. For the top of the 7th I had gone to the bathroom. As I sat on the throne I could still hear the TV. Matt Franco doubles, Rickey doubles. Another rally is underway. I have completed my purpose in the bathroom, but I remain seated on the john, pants around the ankles and everything. I am leaning forward, craning my neck out the door, if not to see, then to at least hear, better. Alfonzo and Olerud single. Smoltz is on the ropes. I haven't budged. I haven't even flushed. (why would I? The noise of the flush would drowned out the TV) And then.... Mike Piazza goes deep! The game is tied 7-7. A 4-run-trip-to-the-can-induced rally! Eventually the Mets lost the game 10-9 in 11 innings. I blame myself. I should have never gotten off the toilet. That's the biggest issue when flirting with the fickle finger of fate, what works one moment may not the next. It's an ethereal game of cat and mouse.
I took an informal survey of some of my co-workers and asked them if they were superstitious sports fans. All but one said they were. Some were more involved than others. Nick admitted that if he drank 3 Cokes during a Mets game and they won, he would drink 3 Cokes every Mets game until they lost. He also said the last two years when the Jets were in the playoffs, he and his friend dressed exactly the same and went through the same game day routine the following week. When his wife didn't replicate her wardrobe from the prior week both he and his friend gave her grief. My pal Kevin said that when he was 12 he never allowed his mother to enter the living room when the Eagles games were on. The entire season! So clearly I'm not alone.
In conversation once with a former G.M. I was explaining to him my superstitions. He basically called me an idiot in a polite way. He's probably right. What impact could where I sit or what I am wearing possibly have on a game? It's easy to remember the dramatic moments of victory but there is a sea of repudiation swelling around me with every failed, ludicrous attempt to alter fate.
But what if he's wrong!? It's a risk I can't take. So I'll keep changing shirts, switching seats, using my special whammy on the opposing players, whatever it takes to feel a little bit like I have a say in the thing that I invest so much time and emotion. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go find my Mr. Met hat.
(what about you? What are your game viewing superstitions? Share them in the comments section.)