Monday, October 25, 2004

No Wonder; Stevie's From Detroit (4 World Championships Since 1918)

When you believe in things that you don’t understand then you suffer
Superstition ain’t the way

Eighteen years ago tonight, in utter desperation, my grandfather grabbed his nut and rubbed it. Before you muse about apples falling from trees, it was a buckeye nut. Not sure why he had it, but he knew the goofy lore of the good luck that stems from such action. He began doing it sometime very late in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series (I think it was about the time I dramatically stormed out of our living room and went to bed in disgust), and no reader needs further explanation. All I've ever heard out of Tuxedo Park, NY, when the topic of the '86 Mets title came up was "It was the nut!"

Nearly every fan and many a player has his or her superstitions, some more bizarre than others. As we chronicled last fall, Boston's fortunes in the ALDS did a 180 when I began donning an old A's cap -- bringing all of those good vibes from the 2003 New York Mets into Oak-town's camp, thereby dooming them. (When your team is an afterthought well before Labor Day each year, mercenary-style ship-jumping and whammy-delivering is excused.) The problem in '03 was, of course, that like Doc Holliday, my hypocrisy goes only so far, and I refused to sport anything in faux support of Los Banditos Yanquis, to mix my movie metaphors.

In 2004, though, the rules of superstition don't include bizarro-garb. (I don't make them up, I just read the cosmic vibrations and adhere to them!) After experimenting with viewing locales and seating arrangements in the ALCS to the point of deciding that nothing I was doing mattered -- and getting close to chucking this notion of mojo out the window entirely, I recognized one pattern that I thought might be influencing the outcome. Games 1 and 2 had found me stone cold sober. During Game 3 I was hammered, which clouds the theory, but I wasn't even watching the game closely, what with the series clearly over by then and me in a bar in the metropolis of Williamsburg, VA. But for Game 4, I threw back a few Sam Adamses to watch the last gasp of the 2004 Sox. Interesting. The next night saw me consciously consume a couple of Coronas (the Sams were gone, and Heiny is imported / brewed in NY). At that point I wasn't sure my beer intake had any bearing, but this was one of those rare superstitious rituals that was actually enjoyable to test out, as opposed to the time we had to drive around town listening to the game on the radio to alter the karma rather than enjoy it on TV from the sofa.

Game 6? Seven or eight more Coronas and a happy result, though the late innings had me putting them away at a more frantic pace. Also noted was that upon the emptying of each bottle, something bad would happen. The absence of alcohol allowed the enemy a foothold! What a ludicrous sight it must have been for the basement crickets to see me scurrying from the easy chair to the semi-fridge behind the bar, scrambling to crack a new beer and get down one swallow in between pitches. Game 7 was more of the same, and the empties started to stack up fairly noticeably, evoking much more introspective thought than I really wanted during a ballgame. But the cosmos dictate the rules, and I merely abide by them.

The World Series presented a new wrinkle, as my formerly overstocked fridge was starting to show signs of depletion, leaving a slew of Anheuser-Busch products. Now, I don't know much, but I certainly know that I won't be helping the Sox mojo during this World Series by drinking a beer brewed in Saint Louis, Missouri. I even have trouble on a whammy purist level with the big Budweiser sign at Fenway. (There have to be enough wack-jobs like me in the stands to drape a Harpoon banner over it, right?) So as the non-St. Louis beers are frittered away, I may have to battle lazy inertia, get out there and stock up on Boston beer if I intend to continue helping legions of Sox folks everywhere. [By the way, my conscious decision that in a case of no-beer-or-Bud-beer this Series I'd go with no-beer deems me as non-alcoholic as an O-Doul's, or in this scenario, a Kaliber. (As an aside, both are a little bit alcoholic, but not enough to hurt.) It's a straw-grasp parallel to the selection of nothing at all over Coors Light on a regular basis, and one that ensures the 12 steps in my life remain the maximum distance between my next beer and me, rather than the stringent alternative.] And this thought process, factored in with this entire preposterous, superstitious crazy train of thought, sounds like the mutterings of a lunatic but makes complete sense to me. I haven't even gotten into the internal mental debate I had as to whether Miller Lite, brewed in Milwaukee, might be detrimental because Milwaukee is a National League town, but it used to be an American league town, but Milwaukee was the last team to lose to the Cardinals in the World Series, and I take a 46 extra-long in strait-jackets, thankyouverymuch. Boy, has it been a long baseball season for me.

All of this just serves to illustrate that the gravity of the World Series, this one in particular, has seemingly normal people behaving peculiarly -- well beyond the card-carrying residents of Red Sox Nation. There's so much on the line for so many people. For me, it's a little different: it's the satisfaction of silencing two tired threads of loud discussion -- the Yankees supporters dredging up the Sox' title drought (they hated "1940!" but they can’t do better than "1918!"?) and the Sox Nationals playing up the woe-is-me cursed oppression motif. Plus I'll get to see my little buddy Robbie Russell in the single most gleeful moment of his life. (Prudence dictated that he rank such a moment, if it arrives, 4th all-time, but we know better; at the very least, while the other events may have been more momentous and truly happy for him, the ensuing responsibility he knew even then that those events carried took them out of the "most gleeful" running.) Most importantly for me, if the Red Sox happen to win the Series in a Game 6 -- which would feature a little extra gravy for those fans who, 18 years later, still feel the fresh sting of a Game 6 debacle, Mr. Russell and I will be in Boston to take in what will become an indelible deposit in the ol' memory bank, even for me the (closeted that night, for personal safety) Mets fan. Rob thinks he might have to bag out on that road trip, what with some small life-altering home purchase at stake about the same time, but if the situation presents itself, he won't. The notorious Noonan Brothers await his arrival, and trust me, you do not want to cross them where the Sox are concerned.

So that's what I'm pulling for, and that's why I've become the baseball lush of late to that end. Of course, a Game 6 would invariably include two St. Louis victories along the way. While rooting for two Cardinal wins would equate Cardinal sins to the faithful, I'll simply pull back on the Whitney mojo a wee bit. Tuesday's softball game will facilitate that, and while Rob hunkers down in his living room and digs us a hole at 2B and the leadoff spot, I'll be out there hacking away at balls out of the zone, swinging for the fences with all of the same ill-conceived, senseless kind of approach that I bring to my fandom, wherever it's employed in late October.

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