Friday, April 11, 2008

Magical thinking your way to an AL Pennant

This weekend, the madness begins again. The first of many meetings between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. There are countless memorable moments between the two franchises but in my mind, none stands out as much as the following. So in honor of the season's first Yankees/Red Sox matchup, a little anecdote about baseball, magical thinking, and the Curse of the Bambino.*

In 2003, during the pivotal game 7 of the ALCS, it looked like the Red Sox were on the verge of beating the Yankees and going to the World Series. It goes without saying that I never imagined that happening during my freshman year of college - and if I had, I certainly wouldn't have sent the check to Boston University. It was also my first time watching Yankees playoff games without my superstitious sister by my side, and I was feeling a bit lonely.

The game did not start off well. The Yankees were down 4-0, thanks to an ineffective start by Roger Clemens, a favorite whipping boy of my sister and I. Mike Mussina had been doing an excellent job in relief, but through five innings, the Yankees had only managed to score one run. Concerned as to my sister's mental state, I called home.


"I dunno, pal, doesn't look good for the Yankees."

"Well... Moose is pitching well."

"Yeah, but we gotta get some runs. Here, talk to your mother."

The phone was passed around the room, each family member telling me I was a braver person than he or she, being in Boston at a time like this. I told my parents to keep my sister away from any windows and or ledges, hung up, and pretended that reading for my English class would help me to get my mind off the impending tragedy. But who was I kidding. Trainwreck or no, I was a loyal Yankees fan, and I was going to see this game through to the end. Sure enough, things started picking up when Derek Jeter smacked a double to center field, and there appeared to be hope for the Yankees yet.

I got back on the phone, checking to make sure that the family hadn't given up hope just yet. Little did I know that I would be initiating a new baseball playoff tradition. The family certainly had NOT given up hope. In fact, my sister was downright ecstatic every time Yankees batters managed another hit or pitchers got a strikeout or clutch double play.

"Well, my phone battery is dying and I gotta go, but things are looking up, so maybe the Yankees will win after all," I said to my sister as I went to end the call.

"NOOOOO!" she shrieked into the phone, temporarily defeaning me. "You can't hang up because now the Yankees are rallying and if you hang up you could destroy the rally!"

This, it should be noted, was delivered in her patented "Monkey Screech," a manner of speaking where the words all come out as one and the pitch is only slightly lower than that of a dog whistle. I wasn't a superstitious person, but I dug out my phone charger, found a relatively convenient outlet, and plugged in my phone, keeping the chain unbroken.

"You see," my sister explained, "when you called, the Yankees had a huge rally. And if you hang up and the rally ends and the Yankees lose, then it will be ALL YOUR FAULT."

My sister subscribed wholeheartedly to the idea of magical thinking, which wasn't ordinarily my thing. But this was a special situation. And the prospect of coming home for Thanksgiving break and potentially being known around the house as the reason the Yankees lost the pennant was not something I wanted to live with. So I stayed on the line for the rest of the game, which eventually went into extra innings. The phone was passed from family member to family member as I sat on my dorm room bed, straining to watch the game on our TV with horrible reception.

And just when I thought that my cell phone might overheat, forever relegating me to be the reason the Yankees lost the ALCS in 2003 when it was actually the fault of my cellphone, Aaron Boone - he of the .176 batting average during the ALCS - came through with a home run in the bottom of the 11th. I threw the phone down and screamed. I heard screaming on the other end. My Red Sox fan roommate gave me a dirty look. The final score was 6-5, and the Yankees were going to the World Series.

A few brave Yankees fans had run outside and I could hear the chants of "LET'S GO YANK-KEES" and "BOSTON SUCKS" through the open window of my third floor room late into the night. I had an early class the next morning, but I didn't care. It was beautiful.

*Which was still in effect then.

No comments: