Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Origins of Sports Karma

Wherever I go, winning follows.
That’s not some sort of trite, bombastic refrain from one of sports’ resident egomaniacs. What I mean is that when I show up in your town, your team will win. Oftentimes, your team will win with a grand, extraordinary fashion, typically more dramatic than riding shotgun with a slurring and enraged .012 Mel Gibson and a half-empty bottle of Cuervo.
I didn’t really think that I had any powers of note until three years ago. I was living in Hartford, and watching the 2004 Boston Red Sox crawl out of their 3-0 hole to the Yankees, and watched them play four of the greatest games ever played: Game 4’s home run from David Ortiz at 1:20 AM; Game 5’s 14-inning affair that ended with Papi’s walk-off single; Game 6 and the Bloody Sock; and Game 7 with the victory that capped one of baseball’s greatest comebacks.
I walked out of my friend’s house that night, into the crisp October air, and watched the liberation unfold. I was witnessing the American Revolution’s sequel, as scores of exultant people sporting Red Sox red, white and blue, marching down the car-less, concrete streets shouting incantations that echoed Dr. King but with a Boston accent. “Free at last, free at last!” I heard the natives cry. I also heard the plaintive howls of “Yankees Suck!” as well, but that’s always the case no matter what happens in New England. And on that night, it was wholly accurate too.

Later that night, I met back up with my friends and we toasted Manny, Big Papi, Schilling and the rest of the 2004 Red Sox over a case of Sam Adams. I was not a Red Sox fan, nor did I become one after that. They’re not my team, and this was by no means, my revolution. But I had to reflect on what I had just witnessed, and how special this was for all of my friends and their fathers. And their fathers before them. The Red Sox would go on, of course, to capture their first World Series in 86 years and I had just moved their less than a year before.
Shortly after they won, I was over at said friend’s place, reflecting on what had been in Connecticut since I moved there when I turned to him and said, “You know, since I moved here, the Patriots won their 2nd Super Bowl, UConn’s basketball teams won titles on back-to-back days, and the Red Sox just won the World Series. Epic man! I must have Sports Karma or something.”
And so this phenomenon began.

The beginnings of Sports Karma really began shortly after I graduated from UT-Austin in August 2001, and moved to Albuquerque in March 2003. The University of New Mexico appeared only in their second bowl game in 40 years, and they managed to get minor league baseball back in the city—it had been missing for a few years after the Triple-A Dukes got ripped from them and moved to Portland, OR.
I moved to Connecticut to pursue a job with ESPN, and you’ve already read what happened once I got there. I moved back to Austin shortly after the Red Sox victory, and the day after I unpacked my bags, the Longhorns beat Michigan in the 2005 Rose Bowl. Six months later, the Horns won the College World Series. A few months later, the Astros would endure the longest game in postseason history, and Albert Pujols’s mammoth blast off of Brad Lidge to make their first-ever World Series appearance. The San Antonio Spurs captured another NBA championship (they would, of course, tack on another one a few years later).
And then there was the magical night of January 4, 2006. My alma mater, the Texas Longhorns, beat USC 41-38 for college football’s national championship behind what might have been the greatest individual performance in college football history. Vince Young rushed for 200 yards, threw for 275 yards and accounted for five touchdowns total as we beat the completely overrated Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart and the Trojans’ complete stable of media-hyped All-Americans.

Winning at this point seemed completely contagious everywhere I went, so I decided to test Sports Karma out on totally random places. And by totally random places, I mean Boise, Idaho.
In 2006, I went on a Pacific Northwest vacation, visiting my buddy Stephen in Seattle along with Idaho, the Eastern Oregon Mountains and the Columbia River Gorge. While I was in Seattle, I went to Safeco Field to watch an otherwise meaningless tilt between the Mariners and the Minnesota Twins. The Mariners won a 12-inning game punctuated by a game-winning 450-foot blast from Carl Everett to win the game. The truly awful Mariners won ten in a row after that; the losing Twins, meanwhile, won the AL Central.
At the end of my trip, I was in Boise, and decided to take a peek at the Boise State campus. I must confess, though, I wasn’t looking for pretty girls, although they were there. I wasn’t looking for pretty architecture, although that was sorely lacking. I was there for the Blue Field, their strangely iconic turf that is, in fact, blue. It is the only one of its kind, to anyone’s knowledge.
There was a high school lacrosse championship game being played there on that Saturday afternoon when I stopped by. I asked the woman who was fielding tickets at the gates if I might just have a look-see at their famed field. The reaction was exemplary, not just by her but by all the Boise natives.
“Oh sure! We’d love to have you. Come right in!” she said to me. One of the other women asked me this little gem: “At halftime, would you like to go down on the field?” “Hell yes,” I said or in so many words.
I walked onto the blue turf, examined it and exclaimed, “Holy crap, it really is blue!” I soaked it all in at this point, noticing the mountains further off in the distance. It may not be Touchdown Jesus, but in recent times this blue field has become a part of college football lore.
It was such a noble gesture by the good folks of Boise to let me on to their home turf, so I decided before leaving the field to “bless” the field, so to speak. I made like a priest blessing his congregation, and extended my right hand to make the Sign of the Cross towards the north exit. I walked off the field, thanked the good folks for letting me down there, exited the stadium and headed towards the airport.
Six months later, the Boise State Broncos capped a perfect season by winning one of the greatest college football games ever played: a 43-42 overtime win in the Fiesta Bowl against the mighty Oklahoma Sooners. It was a victory punctuated by three successive trick plays, including a 50-yard hook n’ ladder play to send the game into overtime, and a Statue of Liberty two-point conversion to win it.
That game may have been played in Glendale, AZ on a space-age new field, and not on the Blue Field of Boise, ID, but still I’d like to think that I had at least a small part in Boise State’s undefeated season.

So you could say that’s what this website is dedicated to. It’s about the underdogs that achieve greatness. It’s about drunken revelry after achieving greatness. It’s about the weird theories that float around in our heads that might not really be true.
But they quite possibly are too.

No comments: