Have Pity on the Superstitious Baseball Fan

My wife will not walk into a room when a baseball game is playing on the television. Welcome to the life of a spouse married to a superstitious baseball fan.

“I’m not coming downstairs – I don’t want to get stuck,” she said during the second game of the World Series.

Last week, during game seven against the Yankees, she made mistake of sitting down as the Astros began their push. Like a fly trapped in a spider web, I would not let go of her hand nor let either of us leave the game. Even after the break, we’d come back, I’d put the pillows in the same spot, even wrap our arms together in the same position. I even adjusted how we were holding hands to make sure I didn’t mess up the karma on the field of play.
The Astros won. Case closed.

Baseball is a game filled with superstition like no other. Many of us, year of playing behind us, continue to honor baseless traditions like never stepping on a white chalk line, selecting lucky socks for special events, and incorporating rote routines into our daily lives. Even the selection of a parking space at work can become a hidden sign of our misguided allegiance to our baseball superstitions. We are a sad lot.

A friend of mine recently shared of how he dealt with a particularly difficult game driving home from Austin.

“I was moving my hands all around the steering wheel trying to change the karma,” he said. “I’d move them to 10 and 2, then 9 and 3, heck, I even found myself leaning into the steering wheel when I ran out of hand positions.”

“You’d think as a rational adult I would realize one guy driving in a car in Texas is not controlling the outcome of one baseball game in New York city.”

Like I said earlier, superstition runs deep in a baseball fan’s life.

We may look like normal people, but when you get to know us you discover we hold our superstitions close. Keeping them to ourselves in daily life, there are signs. Do we walk in the same door when given a choice of others? Do we drive the same pathway to work only to change when we we’ve had a couple of difficult days? We are out there amongst you.

One year I was on a tear – leading the league in triples. For weeks I hid my socks from my mom, bringing the dirty, sweaty – but lucky – socks out into the light of day only on game day. Whatever magic was in the socks I was convinced could not stand up to whatever cleaning agent was in a box of Tide detergent. I still believe that.

So please go easy on us. We know we have demons. But whatever you do, if the team is playing well, don’t leave the room. We know how the universe works and are going to make sure the home team always wins.



Drive Not Defined by Limb Count

Amid a sea of cyclists I spot rider number 819.

He’s standing beside a half-dozen orange and white water coolers. Hundreds of cyclists jockey for position refilling their water bottles. Brightly colored cycling kits complete for attention. White paper number tags populate the backs of rider’s colorful shirts.

I walk over to number 819 and introduce myself.

“Mind if I ask?” I said looking him directly in the eyes.

He smiles and extends his hand. His eyes are warm, his handshake friendly.

“No, I’m not a veteran but it still hurt like hell.”

I first noticed rider number 819 up ahead pushing across the flat roads surrounding the bay. His gait was different but consistent.

Trucks and cars pushed past us along the two-lane highway, their wind wake pushing each of us briefly to the right and then sucking to the left. Naturally, we all watch out for each other.

As I drew closer I noticed his left leg – or the leg not there. Below his knee was an engineering marvel dressed in a sock and tennis shoe. High-tech parts driven by a powerful human heart.

We exchanged names, spoke about the ride, and his story.

“I lost it about ten years ago in a motorcycle accident.”

He is relaxed and someone who comfortable in his own skin. He is confidence balanced with humility – impossible not to like. Likeable is a fitting word.

Five years ago he got on a bicycle.

Never really rode before, he said.

We talk about the ride and the distance ahead of us. One hundred miles – or century – is a cyclist’s equivalent to a runner’s marathon of 26.2 miles. Everyone has an individual story, a reason, and motivation. Spending a day of sunlight unnaturally positioned over an inch of inflated rubber is enough to make others question your judgment.

Number 819, while one of thousands of riders, is one in a million. His newfound journey is one of grit, commitment, and self-accomplishment. He’s not dressed to impress, but rather to reflect his laid back and confident composure. In a sea of brightly colored riders, he’s dressed in comfortable commuter cycling shorts and top. His outward appearance is as comfortable and approachable as his personality.

He tells me his name, inviting me to find him on Facebook afterwards. The ride is his third century of the year. His commitment to the intricate web of reasoning behind  his riding is deep and personal.

We shake hands, we part, and he places a white ear bud into his ear.

I can only imagine his journey – the one before the bike. The pain, the mental challenges, and the unknown he faced after his accident. But here he is – solid, confident, and composed.

Walking back into the sea of brightly colored cyclists I realize rider number 819 changed my outlook on my day, my life, my future. He reminded me life is what we make of it – that is embracing life one pedal stroke at a time.







Losing Your (Musical) Virginity Powerful

The first time I heard the Rolling Stones it cost me ten cents. Same for the John, Paul, George, and Ringo.

Standing in a neighbor’s garage, I picked up a stack of small black discs from a dark green Ping-Pong table turned garage sale display case.

“Ten cents a piece,” came a woman’s voice. “There are some good one’s if you look hard enough.”

Nixon was president and our family sedan consumed gasoline like a thirsty dog laps up water on a hot July afternoon. My ears were about to lose their virginity.

I’d only recently earned double-digit candles and didn’t know any of the cryptic names printed on labels. Forty-fives, the lady called them. They seemed almost mysterious and different. I bit.

“Hard Day’s Night” / Lennon and McCartney said an orange and yellow label. “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” / Rolling Stones read another. I grabbed a half dozen.

At that point in life I dealt exclusively in coin currency. I handed the lady the correct change. Putting down her cigarette, she counted the coins and sent me on my way– a short walk across our shared backyards.

I remember walking through the back door of our small house, down the hallway, and into my back bedroom. Closing the door behind me, I went over to a small, portable record player sitting on a repurposed cabinet.

Not knowing one song from the other, I randomly selected a disc and dropped the needle arm. Keith Richards came out of 2-inch speaker. To this day, the opening riff instantly transports me to standing in my childhood bedroom being indoctrinated into a magical world of sound and emotion. Suddenly a demarcation line was etched in my lifeline – one with Walt Disney on one side and Mick Jagger on the other.

Losing your musical virginity is a powerful thing.

The morning consisted of me flipping records over and over, not knowing the difference between and A and B-side. My room became a Pandora’s box of musical discovery, me carefully dropping the needle onto the discs for hours.

This changed everything in my childhood home – suddenly I had my own music. And as if a root of independence was planted with the opening riff from Richards, my music exposure was no longer limited to jazz, Dixieland, and classical music – the music of choice in our home. The discovery of rock music was as if I’d somehow walked into a Baskin-Robins after only knowing three flavors of ice cream existed – vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate.

Today I have an AARP card, two adult children, and sometimes find myself standing in the kitchen not knowing what I came in looking for in the first place. I also mindlessly take a cocktail of prescribed pills in the morning in hopes each is going down for a reason and will result is something good.

But no matter how many years pass the best medicine for whatever ails me was purchased long ago for a handful of coins.