Confessions of a sports jinx

SONY DSCOn Friday, May 13, I was having dinner with friends and the subject turned to superstitions. When my turn came I fessed up: I am a sports jinx. Or at least I feel like one. Tonight is one of the biggest games in recent Cleveland sports history: Game 6 of the NBA Eastern Conference Semi-Finals and I am not watching.

I have gone so far as to check the score: Cleveland is up 37-29 with just under 9 minutes left in the 2nd Quarter.

Now I realize the utter ridiculousness of my feeling. It’s not really me. But it sure feels like it sometimes.

I also realize that a big part of the problem is being a Cleveland sports fan: Cavs, Browns, Indians. But I’ve never been one to give up on the teams I grew up with.

ESPN recently did a documentary called Believeland about the long history of sports disappointment in Cleveland. I went to the premiere during the Cleveland International Film Festival. The filmmakers almost got it right–and like the Browns  they left the story on the one yard line.

They documented they disappointments, athletic, economic, and social. They had a father and son at a diner counter as the narrative element. But it just missed explaining why in the world Cleveland sports fans keep coming back. They missed the threads about place, and migration and tradition and identity.

The flip side to missing that is that you can take the gloom and doom too seriously. Which I sometimes do. The Cavs went 10-0 in the playoffs and then lost two straight to the Toronto Raptors. I went to work on Tuesday thinking, “Is this how it ends? Is this it?”

Then the Cavs came back and beat Toronto by 38 points on Wednesday: that’s more like it.

No, I did not watch that game. I was riding home from the airport and checking the score on my phone. That felt pretty risky.

So tonight I’ve decided to wait until the second half. If we’re still up by double digits, I might tune in.

That feels pretty risky, too.

A couple of years ago Budweiser did a commercial which is remembered as the “Basement Commercial.” It’s part of the “Whatever it takes” series of ads about sports superstitions. In the “Basement,” a guy’s friends banish him to the basement because whenever he goes there the team scores.

I know how he feels.

If things go badly after I start watching, I can always turn the game off and hope they recover.

Wish me–and Cleveland–luck.

Categories: Sports

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2 replies »

  1. I deliberately try to taunt the God of the Jinx, especially in front of my family.

    “Wow, we’ve had that dishwasher for over ten years and it still hasn’t broken down. Good thing. It would be a bitch to replace.”

    “The weather’s looking pretty grim for tomorrow’s wedding. Imagine there was a huge downpour right in the middle of the outdoor ceremony?”

    They roll their eyes but I like to have the kids know that they shouldn’t be afraid of their thoughts or express them outloud if it wouldn’t affect the outcome either way. (“Don’t say things like that!”)

    So, be content in the knowledge that by reading this very post, you are now free of the Jinx God. You are now free of the burdens and responsibilities inherent in being a fan. Watch.

    Just, watch. It’s the freakin’ Finals goddamn it! The Big Three, and hell the whole lineup is as healthy as we’ve ever seen them. They’ve proved to be absolutely devastating both inside and out, leaving defenses in bad, no-win situations on each possession. I love seeing their defensive rotations snap tight and the point guards having that deer-in-the-headlight look knowing that he’s got no good options. James is in the absolute prime of his career and his mere presence makes everyone wearing his colors go to a whole nother level.

    So, watch. Just watch and enjoy yourself and don’t feel guilty for doing so.