Thursday, January 18, 2007

Mr. G

Occasionally, an epic event happens that transcends the boundaries of sport and makes a real difference in life. Just such an event happened to me on January 13, when I became Mr. G. Yes, the lovely lady of my life is now stuck with me permanently. Poor thing.

In all seriousness, and my most recent post aside, the healing process from the events of January 8 really began when I said "I do." So important was that wedding that I told G that last week was still the best week of my life. I meant every word of it. Wherever the reader finds this, please raise a virtual glass to the woman who listens patiently to all of the maniacal ravings of which this blog is only the tip of the iceberg, and still finds it within her to love me anyway. You're the best, G!

Let the Healing Begin

It took a week and a half, but I think I’m finally ready to comment on the horrific happenings in Glendale. The Buckeyes’ epic egg-laying against Florida, combined with the Vikings losing 10 games despite the NFL’s best run defense and my worst fantasy football season since fatefully drafting Fragile Freddy Taylor and Brian “Beware of My Own Dog” Griese in the 2nd and 3rd rounds in 2001, officially cemented 2006 as the most disappointing football chapter in my history. Yet, every cloud has a silver lining or two, and I think I’ve found mine. Here it is: I am completely and totally responsible for the National Championship debacle. Wait, that doesn’t sound like any consolation at all, does it? Well, the good news is that I think I’ve figured out how to avoid all such future catastrophes.

Upon a substantial amount of reflection, I’ve discovered many things that I either did wrong or noticed going wrong in the day or two preceding the game as well during the contest itself that ended up creating a mountain too big even for the best big-game coach and quarterback tandem in modern college football history to overcome. I’ve decided to present them as examples to a set of rules that I firmly believe can help you, the reader, avoid similar disappointments while cheering on your favorite teams. Without further ado, here is the Superstitious Fan’s Guide to Watching Sports:

1. Do not do anything the day of the game that could be construed as a metaphor for poor performance by your team. If you’re viscerally connected to your team like I am, you’re basically a walking voodoo doll. If you do something, so will they. For instance, at one point on the day in question, I dropped my car keys no fewer than 4 times within one hour. Sure enough, later that night, the Buckeyes made so many mental mistakes and turnovers that I spent the entire 2nd quarter scanning their sideline for evidence of John Cooper’s presence. Another good example of something you don’t want to do is start shooting at trash cans right before your guys play an important basketball game. The downside is just too great.

2. Under no circumstances are you to engage a fellow fan in conversation about one of your team’s stars while said fan is wearing a replica jersey for said star. I feel at this moment that a personal apology to Troy Smith is in order. I was being served at a Wendy’s by a girl wearing a #10 OSU jersey, and our subsequent five minute bragging session about Smith not only prompted the worst performance of his career at the worst possible time, it probably also cost him millions of dollars at the next level. Sorry, Troy; as an experienced sports fan, I really should have known better.

3. While we’re on the subject, don’t brag about your team/put down your opponent at all within several hours of game time. There’s a reason coachspeak and clichés are so prevalent. My brother Kevin and I engaged in a pump-each-other-up phone call about the game that afternoon, and then we saw everything that we talked about happen…in the opposite direction!

4. Also, if you find any taunting of your opponent playing on any local media, turn it off IMMEDIATELY! My wife and I were listening to a Columbus radio station while running some errands and heard a pro-OSU chant come on. Turned out it was the beginning of one of the most atrocious-sounding songs I’d ever heard, a rap song saying something to the effect of us being about to destroy the Gators. While I hoped it would turn out to be true, I should have known that just the act of listening to it would bring about the exact opposite effect. We disgustedly turned off the song after an ear-torturing minute and a half, but the damage was done.

5. While watching the game, stop complaining about poor officiating for at least a minute if something good happens. I failed to heed this rule after the referees finally decided to stop awarding an extra yard to each Florida offensive spot of the ball (resulting in the first Gator punt), and within minutes of my faux pas the Buckeyes failed to convert a 4th and 1 and fumbled on successive possessions, both deep within their own territory. It’s probably a good policy not to complain at all, but most of us diehards aren’t capable of that, so at least be grateful enough when you see something positive happen to stop whatever whining you were doing for a little bit.

6. Know your history with your potential gametime companions and act accordingly. I ignore this rule time and time again, and I always kick myself for it later. My personal maxim in this regard can be summed up thusly: “Wherever two or more Lockers are gathered, athletic catastrophe ensues.” I was so looking forward to watching my team play for all the marbles with the people closest to me that I neglected the fact that out of 4 championships won by my teams since the 1990 World Series, another family member has been in the same building as me exactly zero times. The Reds in particular have suffered from this, as they are 1-7 when I watch them live with any of my relatives. In one of those games, my siblings and I even got embarrassed on the Jumbotron (we had the letters R-E-D-S painted on our shirts, but didn’t get shown to the rest of the crowd until we switched seats and were out of order in the 8th inning). Back to the game in question, the application of this rule is painfully obvious: I took in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl at a Michigan bar in Chicago and was only even acquainted with 4 people present, and the Bucks won; I watched the 2007 BCS Championship from the comfort of Kevin’s living room and, well, you know what happened …

7. If you make any donations (generally only applies to collegiate teams), be sure to specify that they go ANYWHERE other than the university’s advertising budget. I have yet to see a game where the team with more commercials shown during the game ended up winning. Ohio State brought this style of tempting fate to the level of an art form by including TROY FREAKING SMITH in its self-aggrandizement. OK, so maybe Troy’s shoddy play wasn’t all my fault…

8. Another college football-specific rule: do whatever you can to make sure that the marching band plays something upbeat/inspiring and that doesn’t refer to an ill-fated boat trip during halftime. If you have no control over such things, then hit the mute button, start playing some Survivor, and keep it on for the duration of the band’s performance to balance out the bad mojo. In fact, it probably doesn’t hurt to add in “Hearts On Fire” during the next commercial break and tell Emmett Smith that you must break him the next time he’s on camera, just to be safe.

9. Lastly, if you do happen to ignore any of the above, make sure you don’t notice it. I thought about each and every one of the above rules that I violated in the days leading up to the game, as it was happening. One of the worst things you can do is be aware of when you’re jinxing your team. The moral? Don’t be superstitious; it’s bad luck.