Wednesday, January 29, 2003 Updated: May 31, 2:16 PM ET
Instant karma's gonna get you
By Bill Simmons Page 2 columnist
Editor's Note: This column appears in the Feb. 3 edition of ESPN The Magazine.
Everyone saw the Red Sox blow that Game 6 at Shea, and yet I'm pretty sure no one could tell me who was to blame. Buckner? Stanley? Schiraldi? Nope. It was me: I called home and asked my mom to tape the final three outs. As I told her
at the time, "I want to have it on tape when the Sox win the World Series."
Buckner didn't make the error -- it was the Sports Guy's VCR.
Haunting words -- I get chills from them even now. Seventeen years later, I'm still beating myself up for saying them. What would have happened if I never made that call? It brings up an interesting question: Can fans jinx games?
Here's one yes vote. I wore the same shirt to every Celtics game during their 2002 playoff run just because I'd worn it at Super Bowl XXXVI. I won't answer the phone during a big Boston game unless it's my father. I won't gamble on a game if I'm going to be traveling while it's being played. If I'm sitting in a certain position and the Sox mount a comeback, I won't budge for the rest of the game ... even if my legs start to cramp and I know I'm going to need chiropractic attention later.
I was at my craziest during the Patriots' Super Bowl run, which coincided with the purchase of a flatscreen TV for Dad's new family room. Problem is, the Pats played better when we watched in the living room. We never actually came out and admitted that until the Pats fell behind in the snow against the Raiders. In the third quarter, I could take it no longer and convinced Dad to switch rooms with these words: "I think the family room is possessed." What happens? Brady drives the Pats to a score soon after, the D stonewalls Oakland and Vinatieri belts his tying 45-yarder. The rest is history. Coincidence? Please. I deserve a ring for that audible.
On the flip side, remember when the Celtics lost out on Tim Duncan in the '97 lottery? Blame me. I broke plans to watch the lottery with Dad, choosing to monitor the proceedings at a girlfriend's house on the Cape. Even as it was unfolding, I thought, "This is the wrong move. I'm selling Dad down the river. I don't even like this girl that much." But I couldn't stop myself. The C's ended up with the third and sixth picks: Chauncey Billups and Ron Mercer. I set the franchise back five years.
And I'm not the only one who thinks this way. Whenever his Vikings needed a big play, my old roommate Geoff would crouch next to our sofa, hands on knees like a first base coach battling gas. During Super Bowl XXXII, my buddy Gus practically locked his wife and newborn son upstairs because he didn't want anyone jinxing his Broncos. Everyone has something. You know you do.
That isn't Celtic green on Duncan. Hope the Cape was fun Sports Guy!
We may all be on to something. Ever sit at a hot blackjack table in Vegas? The gamblers are all working together, you're getting more aces than Steinbrenner and you can't imagine a more euphoric place on the planet. Here's a seemingly random game-six decks of 52 cards shuffled together, no rhyme or reason -- and yet you feel something mystical is happening. As soon as someone breaks the karma, either by changing their bets, making a stupid decision or whatever, the magic disappears. It's creepy & and undeniable.
Couldn't it be that sports are like that? OK, so maybe no fan can affect a game single-handedly, short of pulling a De Niro in "The Fan." But couldn't the collective energy of thousands and thousands of fans-all pulling their own karmic routine at the same time, instinctively pushing in the same direction- resemble a giant blackjack table? Looking back, maybe it wasn't my fault alone that the Sox blew the '86 Series. Maybe I had plenty of partners in crime, shortsighted Sox fans who attended parties instead of staying home, or took off their rally caps too soon, or uttered sentences like "I want to have it on tape when the Sox win the World Series."
If you know any of these people, please e-mail me with their stories. Soon. I'm begging you.
Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine, and he's a writer for Jimmy Kimmel Live, premiering Super Bowl Sunday on ABC.