Saturday, February 28, 2004
I've never considered myself a superstitious person.
I've learned enough to know that black cats, broken mirrors and spilled salt have never impacted my daily life. That is, as long as the cat isn't tearing through my trash, I don't need the mirror to fix my hair, and I didn't want the salt for my breakfast.
Most of the time, I cruise through life like most people, giving little or no thought to the thousands of superstitions that exist.
But a few years ago, while traveling across Wyoming with a pair of rodeo cowboys, I made a mistake.
I tossed my cowboy hat onto the bed while digging through my duffle bag. When I glanced up, both cowboys were staring at me transfixed with horror. I didn't know it, but leaving a cowboy hat on a bed is like going swimming with your bowling ball among great white sharks -- not a good idea.
To a cowboy, it's like a football player's photo on the cover of Sports Illustrated or former baseball player Wade Boggs passing up a chicken dinner for steak before a baseball game.
Every sports fan also knows never to laugh at a goalie, no matter how silly the things he does before, after or during a hockey game. And who is crazy enough to question a guy who is willing to stand in front of a small net and try to stop a frozen puck moving at the speed of sound. Laughing at him -- well that's not only unlucky, it's hazardous.
During my writing career, I've seen just about every sport played at every level -- and trust me, strange superstitions are followed by everyone from girls softball teams to bowling leagues.
I would like to point my finger at the players who are willing to base their entire performance on a single, strange act or on a pre-game routine that they can't seem to break -- but I can't.
It's the same force that somehow stops me from throwing my bowling ball down the lane if the bowler on either side of me has just thrown a split. The same feeling that causes me to leap over the foul line as I make my way back to the dugout during a softball game.
It's silly I know, but like it or not, superstitions are as big a part of sports as the balls we use to play the games.
That's why I can't comment on how ridiculous it seems that a Chicago restaurateur would pay $113,824 for the most famous foul ball of all time only to destroy it on television.
The ball has become the symbol of the Cubs' continuing string of bad luck. This year, when the team seemed on track to head to its first World Series since 1945-- in came The Ball. The foul ball became the downfall of the 2003 Chicago Cubs. Forget the string of errors that allowed the Florida Marlins to score eight runs -- everyone knows it was The Ball's fault.
So we will have to wait to see if the team's string of bad luck is over now that The Ball has been destroyed. Somehow I doubt it.
But you can bet the next time I'm bowling, and the guy next to me throws a split, I will wait before I throw my next ball.
--To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209 or e-mail email@example.com