Superstitious Post-Mortem

The Boston Red Sox were eliminated from the playoffs by Tampa Bay on Sunday, and I think it might be partly my fault. That's because this year I decided to try something new while watching the Red Sox. I decided not to be superstitious.

I realize now that this may have been a big mistake. After all, I was a superstitious mess in both 2004 and 2007, and it clearly worked. In the past, I have assigned magical powers to a variety of items, including unsalted potato chips, the green Red Sox cap of a friend in England, Shaw's Boston Crème Pie, the corner booth of a pizzeria, and, of course, my friend Anna.
However, it was during the cereal incident in the Angles series when I decided to change my ways. You see, in the first game, I had a bowl of cereal, which led directly to a good inning for the Red Sox. I had never before thought much of Just Bunches! Cereal, but could the bunches in the title also refer to runs, in addition to the "delicious honey-baked clusters?"

Obviously, I tried the cereal again at another crucial moment. No matter that I wasn't hungry. No matter that I poured way too much, you know, for luck. No matter that I had just chosen a lucky food that didn't even go with beer. This was important. I believe the ridiculous phrase "I should have some rally cereal" even went through my head.

Unfortunately, this time, things didn't go nearly as well. Suffice it to say that there was a giant honey-baked cluster of an entirely different sort that night. Immediately, Just Bunches! was taken off the postseason roster and replaced with.... well, nothing.

After that, I decided to abandon all superstitions, and it worked. The team clearly responded. Each time, I was tempted to stand in a certain place in my living room or eat a certain food in a certain way at a certain time, I reminded myself that I was being silly. I told myself I could stand anywhere, eat anything, do anything, and it wouldn't make a difference. Now, that's power.

Soon, I started to think before every pitch, "Am I doing anything superstitious?" If so, I would instantly change my routine. It was as if I was a pitcher desperately trying to switch up my delivery so as not to tip any of my pitches.

Perhaps the high point came when the Red Sox were down 7-0 to the Rays in the seventh inning of Game 5. I hadn't turned the game off, but I was barely paying attention. By then, I certainly wasn't trying to affect the outcome of the game with any silly rituals, and yet the Red Sox staged the most amazing comeback I've ever seen. And it was all done without my help.

Admittedly, this can be a tough habit to break. Before Game 6, I realized I still had some lucky potato chips left over, and so I had a bowl of them. The next thing I knew, instead of the first inning, TBS was showing "The Steve Harvey Show" for twenty minutes. In all my life, I've never seen bad luck such as this during a sporting event!

Amazingly, TBS couldn't deliver the first twenty minutes of Game 6 to U.S. viewers because of a router problem at TBS World Headquarters down in Hades. This is remarkable because even I have a backup router in my closet, but it was also definitive proof that superstition itself was unlucky this year.

But, alas, Game 7 was definitive proof the other way. I now know that I shouldn't have abandoned what worked so well in previous years. I can't help but think I deserve some of the blame for Boston's loss, although it could also be attributed to the fact that the Rays were the better team.

Now, I do realize that my behavior during a game makes almost no difference to its outcome. Maybe an unearned run here and there, but that's it. I also realize that I'm not alone. I imagine the majority of fans act irrationally during big games; that's just part of the fun. For example, Tampa Bay fans have been wearing those blue Mohawks all post-season. I would normally point out how stupid they look, except that Red Sox fans have done things just as stupid in the past. A few of you may even still have your Johnny Damon beards from 2004.

Usually, what's lucky and what's unlucky varies from team to team, but this year I think there's at least one thing Boston and Tampa Bay fans can agree on. Steve Harvey? Definitely unlucky. Being the TBS executive in charge of baseball coverage? Even unluckier. 

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