I believe in the value of sabermetrics and I also believe in baseball voodoo magic, so take that how you will.
— Daniel Poarch (@PoarchDaniel) October 17, 2013
I’m a pretty normal and reasonable guy. I have a wife, family, house, and job and go through my days as a pretty rational and realistic guy.
Until Boston Red Sox playoff baseball starts. Then, all logic and reason flies out the window.
Do I, as a fan, honestly believe that what I do has any impact on a baseball game being played hours away by grown men who will never know my name? I don’t. But has that stopped me from developing a variety of quirks, habits, and superstitions over the years? It hasn’t. Should I stop asking questions and then answering them myself at this point? I should and I will.
During the 2004 season, as most of our lives were being drastically changed and also significantly shortened, I started two Red Sox related superstitions. The first one involved Trot Nixon, and therefore was discontinued when he left Boston for Cleveland in 2007. On a speaker next to my television stood a Trot Nixon bobble-head. Before a big Nixon at-bat I had walked by and pushed the brim of his hat, causing his head to bobble back and forth (just in case you’re unfamiliar with what a bobble-head is and how it works.) Trot got a hit, and immediately a new habit was born. That bobble-head now sits retired on my desk at work, autographed by the one and only Christopher Trotman Nixon.
Earlier that year, for some unknown reason, I had begun to mimic David Ortiz whenever he would spit into his batting gloves and clap. I would faux-spit into my hands and clap the same amount of times that he did, once, twice, or three times. If you, by chance, aren’t familiar with Big Papi’s performance in the 2004 playoffs suffice it to say that he was flat out amazing, and another new tradition was born. In the ten years since then, not a single Ortiz at bat has gone by when I haven’t joined him in the spit and clap every time it’s shown on TV. (It is worth mentioning here that my then-girlfriend is now my wife. She has been around for the entire decade of this and eagerly awaits his future retirement.) Does it help him hit series-changing postseason home runs? I doubt it, but on the other hand, it’s been a heck of a decade for the guy, so I can’t really stop now.
That’s what makes fans like me so absurd and ridiculous. We do something that we know doesn’t have any real affect on the outcome of the game we’re living and dying with, but we do it all the same, “just in case.”
During Game 1 on Saturday, I sat in the same seat, wearing the same jersey for the first eight and a half innings. Before we came up for the bottom of the ninth, I took the jersey off, grabbed a different Sox t-shirt, took a hat out of the closet, and switched seats. Daniel Nava quickly got a hit, and I felt like a manager who had made the call to the bullpen just in time. Maybe it wasn’t too late to steal this game!
Of course, we came up one Xander Bogaerts hit short of walking away with the series-opening victory, but that wouldn’t stop my fan neurosis from growing and spreading during the series.
On Sunday night, I was watching Game 2 at my friend Fisk’s house (no relation to Carlton Fisk, but he definitely wouldn’t complain if you were able to get them together at the same family reunion). The Sox were down 5-1, it was pouring rain, and I had a 40 minute drive in front of me. Instead of sticking around for the whole game, I said, “I’m going to get a head start home. I’ll listen on the radio (give me O’Brien/Castiglione over Buck/McCarver any day of the week) in case something crazy happens, and if it doesn’t I won’t have to make the drive at midnight when I am completely ticked off.” Plus, I really felt like I needed to change things up a bit. What we were doing wasn’t working, obviously.
So, driving home in pouring rain, I heard a call from Dave O’Brien that I will never forget: “This game is tied! This game is tied! David Ortiz! David Ortiz! David Ortiz!” After my mind settled down and I began to refocus on keeping my car on the road and in a lane I thought, “It worked!” Leaving had worked. I had changed the mojo, and the game turned around. It’s totally illogical, but in that moment I believed it just the same. I wished that I had been at my friend’s house to celebrate this colossal moment in Red Sox history together, watching on a huge, awesome TV instead of listening on the car radio, but a part of me believed it wouldn’t have happened if I had stayed. Fisk agrees. After the win he told me, “Sorry we can’t watch another game together at my house this postseason, but I’m sure you understand.” I got back to my house during the commercial break in the middle of the ninth inning, and watched Jarrod Saltalamacchia drive in Jonny Gomes to tie the series at a game a piece.
During the game, and on the drive home, I was spitting David’s sunflower seeds into a 20 ounce Diet Mt. Dew bottle. (No, that is not an official endorsement of either product, although if the fine people of David’s or Mt. Dew would like to send me some free goods, I would be happy to champion either product for nothing more. Also, yes, I drink diet soda, because I have chosen to die from the cancer that fake sugar gives you instead of the obesity that comes from 290 calories per bottle of non-diet soda. We all have to go somehow.) So, of course, I didn’t get rid of that bottle of disgusting chewed seeds, because, why would I? Naturally I saved the bottle, and brought it back out for Game 3, using my powers of chewing and spitting to coax the Red Sox to a 2-1 series lead.
Which brings me to Wednesday night. Here I sit, wearing the shirt I wore for Game 2 of the ALDS, spitting into an old soda bottle full of stale sunflower remains, clapping my hands in unison with a man that is playing a game six hours away from me.
Not even that is enough to override an absolutely terrible start from Jake Peavy. Time to try out a new shirt, seat, and seed receptacle.
There is no way any of this will have an effect on the outcome of the game, but just in case, I can’t stop now.