I’m a Red Sox fan. There, I admitted it. And I have no shame in doing so. Of course, that is considerably easier today than it was 12 years ago. Over the past 11 seasons, the Red Sox have won 3 World Series championships. It’s not hard to be a fan. After 86 years of futility, after countless near-misses, after torturing not only a fan base but an entire region of this great country, it seems the Baseball Gods smiled down on the players housed in a musty clubhouse locked underneath the then 92-year old edifice erected between Lansdowne St. and Yawkey Way. Ah, the Baseball Gods.
Do they exist, these oft-quoted, oft-lamented, Baseball Gods? If you are a superstitious sort, like I am, you definitely believe. There has not been any qualitative or quantitative research done on the number of Atheist baseball fans who believe in the Baseball Gods, but I have to imagine there are more than a few. If not for the Baseball Gods, how could you explain the crazy turns of event that seem to happen over and over again?
And the corollary to the concept is that one must go to great lengths not to upset the Baseball Gods. It is a well worn fact that, in the midst of a no-hitter, you don’t deign to talk to the pitcher, and the announcers and fans are verboten from discussing the same. We have now taken this to its logical and technological conclusion, to the world of social media, where this edict is now writ large (small?). To wit:
You see any words that are conspicuously missing?
How about this one:
Or last night:
No one – with the possible exception of Buster Olney who, for reasons that are inexplicable, doesn’t believe – wants to be the guy who pissed off the Baseball Gods are caused a base hit to occur.
How about when the Baseball Gods have taken out their animus on entire organizations (see Cubs, Chicago; Red Sox, Boston)? The Baseball Gods were big fans of the Bambino in Boston and not so much Billy Goats on the ballfield. Is there any other way to explain, in no particular order:
- Bucky “Fucking” Dent
- Bill Buckner
- Aaron “Bleeping” Boone
- Steve Bartman
- Leon “Bull” Durham (in case you forgot, a quick reminder)
And, to that end, is there any other way to explain how fortunes change? Go to Netflix and watch “Four Days in October” and tell me that some form of divine intervention wasn’t at play.
Or what about baseball’s biggest heel: Barry Bonds. Did anyone – mortal or otherwise outside the City by the Bay – want him and the Giants to win the 2002 World Series? Apparently not, as that series turned on a dime when Scott Spezio (yup, Scott Spezio, who later fell out of baseball in a haze of drug abuse and ended up being tased by the police a few months back) changed a player’s and a team’s fortunes with one swing of the bat.
The Baseball Gods are not fond of certain vices; gambling on the sport, for instance. The White Sox (er, Black Sox) fixed the 1919 World Series. They didn’t get back to another World Series for 40 years (losing to the Dodgers in ’59), and didn’t win one until 2005. It seems the Baseball Gods abide by some long-gestating statute of limitations.
The Baseball Gods are not kind to premature victory celebrations. Take, for instance, the 2001 World Series, wherein the Yankees were up a run going into the bottom of the ninth of Game 7, with Mariano Rivera on the mound. Some marketing mensa thought it made sense to cover the Yankees’ locker room with plastic and roll out cases of champagne. We all know what happened next, as the D-Backs got to Rivera and Luis Gonzalez duck-farted his way into World Series lore. I hope that same lackey was charged with clearing out the clubhouse before any shocked Yankee made it down the tunnel.
Nor do Baseball Gods take kindly to “Bush League” behavior. For a litany of examples, see the career high (low?) lights of one Alex Rodriguez. He ran across the mound in Oakland – much to the dismay of Dallas Braden; he yelled “Hah, I got it” while running past the third baseman in Toronto; he smacked the ball out of Bronson Arroyo’s glove in Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS, and then claimed he did nothing of the sort. We could do this all day with this guy. End result: A-Rod received the harshest drug punishment in the history of the sport – without ever failing a drug test. The Baseball Gods (this time in the form of Bud Selig) had spoken.
Lest we think the Baseball Gods only focus on the Big Leaguers, I personally pissed them off a few years ago. After the fifth run scored in extra innings of a win or go-home game, I started making weekend plans for the next round of playoffs. Wouldn’t you know it, the opposing team scored six times in the bottom half – culminating with a walk-off grand slam (which was preceded by a Bull Durham/Bill Buckner-esque ball through the first baseman’s wickets). I knew I had done wrong when I opened my mouth, but thought there was no way the Baseball Gods would bother with a 12-year old baseball game. As my daughter is apt to say, “I guess you were wrong”.
The Baseball Gods are also quick to punish what they believe are unfair outcomes. Last week we (re)learned about Merkle’s Boner. That mistake (read: properly but questionably enforced rule) allowed the Cubs to win the pennant and then the World Series. As we discussed, they haven’t won one since, and haven’t even been back in 70 years. Or, how about when a coach appeals and wins a questionable (albeit, by the rules, correct) interference call early in a series, only to end up losing that series in the final game? The Baseball Gods never forget; their power is always lurking right around the corner.
So forget Friday the 13th and black cats running across the field, it is not calendars and felines you need to be worried about. It is the omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent Baseball Gods with whom you must curry favor. So grab your glove (which, hopefully, no one else has touched), step over the baseline, touch second base on your way to the outfield, use the same bat over and again, draw a symbol in the batter’s box, carry a crystal in your back pocket, and then just go about your business. Because nothing can affect your performance or the outcome of the game . . . except the Baseball Gods.