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.

Wednesday Morning

(I wrote this on April 25th, the day after my Comprehensive exams. I was really excited at passing the exams and the weird day that I had gone through. An oldie...DaVinci)

Wednesday morning.

So I'm sure some of you have begun to wonder where I have been in the last few months. I'll tell you that these last few months have been some of the most stressful, most pressure filled months of my life. Even with all of this constant pressure, whether of a social or scholastic theme, I managed to come out unscathed. I wont bore you with all the details, but I hope at least you remember that two years ago I decided to begin my doctorate degree in U.S. Latino and Latin American Literature. Wednesday, today, was the culmination of all these studies, the conclusion to four written exams over the period of two weeks. Wednesday was the oral defense of my written exams.

The day began with 80% precipitation in Houston, a certain omen indeed... I decided to not pay too much attention to the torrential downpour outside while I did some last minute reviewing of articles, outlines, hand-written scribbles, pnemonic devices, acronyms, and etc. I was going to wear a suit to my oral defense but I decided not to because it was not going to be favorable option, due to the weather outside. I wore my jeans and a nice black polo I recently bought, also my UT watch my sister gave me and my italian shoes "Bongiorno boys!"

I went to Taco Cabana this morning and I took my notes with me to read on the way there (at the stop lights), the storm was certainly approaching the Southwestern corner of the city, I could see the clouds rolling in, like that scene in "Independence Day" when the alien craft ships approach the cities. I had a couple of movies from Blockbuster I hadn't returned so I did that too, and when I got out to drop them off I felt these huge, quarter size glops of water coming down. I swear they were like big ass drops hitting me and my car, I ran inside, rolled up the windows and the storm gathered strength and made everything super dark and very wet. I'm very big into signals so I was freaking out at the storm.

Somehow though, I remembered that my mom told me that the day I was born, there was a huge, huge storm in Matamoros, and how it was so cold. A birth is good news right, even during a storm... Also, my 22nd birthday I was really excited to go out with all my friends, but that was the year that there was another torrential downpour of apocalyptic proportions in Austin. Only my close friends, Jesse, Brad, Matt, Eliza and a couple of others came out and braved it, running up and down Sixth street, very wet and even more drunk. That made me realize at some of the "false" friendships I had in college and how it is very true you can only count your true friends on one hand, in my case, two hands :)

So I thought of those two things and realized maybe it wasn't all that bad...

I decided to go to school right away before it got worse, but before I left, my lovely girlfriend Anesha had written me a supportive email and it definitely made me feel better to go out into the typhoon outside. I drove with my notes on my lap and when I got to the university, I found an awesome parking spot in the parking lot I wanted. Nice...

I had a miniature umbrella, I swear these things must be made illegal, they can't possibly cover anything but my head and shoulders. My pant legs were all wet from the near horizontal streams of water coming down. I will say that I am proud of my mini-umbrella for not folding up and over. I saw so many people with those huge umbrellas, the ones that look like they could be stuck in the sand on a beach somewhere. Nice, but useless because the wind would flip them up and the person underneath would get all wet immediately. So I won't talk shit about my little umbrella.

When I got to Agnes Arnold hall, I was very nervous and my heart was pounding really hard. Thankfully, Ana María and Craig were there and they filled me up with their knowledge through an osmosis transfer. As soon as I hugged them, I took their knowledge in with me and used it in the exams. (suckas!) Also, I went up to the sixth floor to hang out with Luziris and Ana María and they were very supportive, AND.... as I was going up on the elevator, there was this little mexican woman that was towing along her 5 gallon bucket full of tamales. She called me "maestro" and asked if I wanted to buy tamales. Who was I to explain to her that as a Liberal Arts major I'm almost always broke. I just said "No gracias, la próxima"

I think she felt I was worried, so she asked what was going on, I told her about my exams and I swear she gave me a "bendición" right there in the elevator!!! It was awesome, she was just going on and on about "la fuerza de Dios, y que Dios me bendiga" and on and on. It felt so good.

I took the exams about 40 minutes later and although my heart was pounding really hard, I felt strangely calm. Sociolinguistics was first and Dr. Gutiérrez asked me about "simplificación del verbo temporal en el pasado" It was amazing, I just told him exactly what I had remembered and we chatted a little and he said ok, next professor. It was literally like 10 minutes, I was totally amazed at how quickly it went...

Then came Dr. Bencomo and her question on "Violence on Latin American Narrative" that one took way more time, but she was very gracious. Although I forgot a couple of things, she helped me out reminding me of a few things and then I picked right up what I forgot.

The other Dr. Gutiérrez asked me questions about Peninsular Literature, we concetrated on Federico García Lorca and his "Viaje a la luna". I messed up by saying he was a surrealist, when in class he drilled and drilled into us that he wasn't. He uses those techniques but the good doctor's opinion was that he wasn't a surrealist. He was also very gracious.

Finally, Dr. Kanellos didn't ask me anything, he said my written response was fine and that he knew that I knew the material. So now questions from him! Awesome. He also said, "The conozco mosco" hehe...

Since Dr. Kanellos was the chair of my committe, he asked me to stand outside while they deliberated. It took about 10 minutes, then Dr. Kanellos came out with a huge smile on his face and told me congratulations, Mr. ABD. (All But Dissertation). It was a huge weight off my shoulders.

The last two years have been crazy, full of experiences I will never, ever forget. All of you that this email gets to are part of this and I thank you from the bottom of my heart, all the support has been amazing. I will thank each of you personally when I see you next.

Again, thanks for everything. Now my dissertation awaits. I begin researching this summer for that. Oh and if you know of any jobs then let me know! Thanks!

Peace out,