Monday, January 09, 2006

Deep in the heart of football: another tale of cosmic intervention

Again I find myself faced with evidence of my inadvertent influence over sporting events. (Review this posting from last year.) Before I get into that, however, allow me to say to the fans from/of the state of Texas: I’m sorry, and you’re welcome.

Backing up a bit, I should mention, in a act of full disclosure, that I am, at best, a mediocre fan of sports. I am not an avid follower of any team or any sport. I don’t have a fantasy football team. At most I catch Sports Center when there’s nothing better on TV, but I rarely sit through an entire game.

Sure, this all seems worth deserving of those who really treat sports not merely as games but as a lifestyle, who treat family as those things that occupy time during time outs. Perhaps they are too close to it. I don’t know. I didn’t ask for this, nor would I wish for it. The thing that keeps life interesting is lack of foreknowledge of the days to come.

As with the deal with the Angels last year, I have no idea how or why I got this, but unlike that situation, this one affected teams I was not a fan of in the past, nor even from an area where I lived. However, like that situation, now that I’ve mentioned it the power has undoubtedly left me (at least until the next time).

One of those people who are much more rabid fans of football (the American kind with the oblong ball) sits next to me at work. In fact, he even produces a weekly podcast about the NFL. I probably keep up with football more to have something to talk about with him than for any other reason.

For most of this past NFL season I would appease him each week by making picks of that weekends games. We wouldn’t put any money on the picks, nor was it picking against the spread; it was just going through the 14 – 16 games and trying to predict which team would win. And the method I employed for this involved more looking at the match-ups on the piece of paper and trying to see which team gave me some kind of intuitive signal. I knew which team had the better record, sure, but mostly it was just going on feeling.

What’s kind of sad, for him, is that there were quite a number of Monday mornings where when I got in to the office he greeted me with a statement declaring he’d beat me next week, indicating my only semi-informed choices prognosticated better than his more-informed selections; I’d gotten more right. I didn’t keep the slips of paper from each week, but I recall the best I did was going 13-3 one week. I didn’t always best him with my picks, but think if I had kept all the slips and compared our records for picks over the season, I’d probably be pretty close to him, and perhaps might even have done slightly better.

Anyway, the fellow is a big Cowboys fan (hailing originally from the Lone Star state). I’ve never been either a supporter or a hater of Dallas. (I’ve only spent 30 minutes in that city, and that was merely how long it took me to change planes at the airport.) He tended to pick the Cowboys each week, out of loyalty. I understand that. I picked the Cowboys some of the time, and picked against the Cowboys some of the time. I didn’t have a team to which I was loyal; there was no team I picked every week (although I did take Indianapolis every time except one week—when I took Seattle, which proved to be the right choice in that matchup). For a while I kept picking the other team from Texas, the Texans (an awful name, in my opinion, but I don’t have the money to buy the team and rename them—and yes, it was an awful name when the Chiefs were the Dallas Texans before), only because I figured they were due for a win (they won two games all season, only one of which was a week a picked them), but eventually I gave up on them.

As I noted, I didn’t keep the slips showing the picks, so I’m going on memory. What I do recall, because they were his team, is how I picked in the games involving Dallas from Thanksgiving until the end of the season.

Than span stretched over their last six games. On Thanksgiving, I picked the Cowboys, and they lost to the Broncos. I then stuck with them the next week, and they lost to the Giants. Following that, I picked the Chiefs, but the Cowboys won in a squeaker. I then threw my support back to Dallas against the Redskins, and they were embarrassed in Washington. The next to the last week, I thought the Cowboys didn’t have much chance against the Panthers, but they pulled out another comeback win.

Five games in a row I had unsuccessfully selected the winner of the game involving the Cowboys. Okay, an interesting coincidence. I wasn’t trying to pick them or against them to screw with my cubicle neighbor; I was just picking them either with intent or due to that feeling.

In last weekend’s final game, the Cowboys were up against the not-so-good Rams. The losses had put the Cowboys in a poor position for making the post-season, but with a win they had a chance of getting to the playoffs. Despite my co-worker’s pleas to pick St. Louis, I took Dallas, because that’s what both my conscious and sub-conscious mind told me to go with. He’d seen the pattern of the past five games, consistently picking the loser, and although we both knew on some level it was coincidence, being a sports fan he was superstitious enough to offer me actual bribes to change my pick. I said, “Well, this week will prove once and for all whether it’s been me who’s been controlling the outcomes of the Cowboys’ games; if the Rams win, it’s my doing.”

Although Dallas had been eliminated from playoff contention before they started their game, they were still much better than St. Louis. They still played their starters, and from the highlights I caught, appeared to be trying to win nonetheless. However, when the clock wound down to :00 at the end of the fourth quarter, the score was Rams 20, Cowboys 10.

So, uh, sorry about that Cowboys fans. I really didn’t know.

As I mentioned, he’s from Texas, so you could guess for whom he was actively rooting in the college football national title game at the Rose Bowl. And unless you didn’t look at a newspaper headline, website, or TV news program, you saw how that game turned out. I didn’t attend either USC or Texas, but I tend to root for the underdog. (Apologies to my friends who attended USC.) I also have some future in-laws in Austin, so I hoping the Longhorns could pull off the upset. But how does that explain that I had anything to do with them actually winning? With the Cowboys it was when I didn’t support them (so to speak) that they won; how could I sorta root for Texas and have them come out ahead at the end of the game?

Simple: I didn’t believe Texas had a chance. Even as they marched down for what proved to be the game-winning score (which was about all of the game I watched), I kept thinking, They’re going to blow it. And due to my utter lack of faith, they didn’t.

I had no real vested interest in the outcome, and that was exactly what was happening with the Cowboys, so it’s too much to be coincidence (in light of what happened there).

Again, I didn’t know I would have this influence on the big game, or that I could in this roundabout way give something back to the fans in Texas. I am reasonably certain that even had I picked against the Cowboys more (thereby giving them enough victories to make the playoffs) that they wouldn’t have made it to the Super Bowl (as noted, the power ends now that I’ve talked of it, so in the post-season they’d be on their own). And then I’d have nothing left for the big game. Thus, I presume the folks in Texas would much rather have a Longhorns’ national championship (and an end to the Trojans vaunted win streak) than have the Cowboys lose in the first round of the playoffs.

If ever Fate (or whatever) granted me this kind of influence over my own life, I’d never be able to take advantage of it. Not only would I realize too late, but I couldn’t actively hope for bad stuff to get good stuff. It doesn't work that way. I'm not sure how it does work, I just know I'm not in control of when I'm in control... and it all kind of balances out in the end.

1 comment:

  1. And all this time, I'd thought it was my 20 minute viewing of the Texas/USC game (while at the gym, no less) that jinxed it for the Trojans. Thank you for taking that guilt from my shoulders - I feel much better. Now, if I can just find a way to get my Texas-based colleagues to stop randomly shouting "Hook-Em Horns!" when I call them, life will return to the relative state of "normal" that I have become accustomed to.


So, what do you think?