"When you believe in things that you don't understand/Then you suffer/Superstition ain't the way..."
Stevie Wonder - "Superstitious"
While most college-aged students here in central Ohio spent their Saturday night carousing the town, I was lying in bed, surrounded by Kleenex, Halls cough drops, water bottles and Tylenol PM.
I watched the end of Ohio State's demolition of Iowa in men's basketball, then planned on catching some of the Cavs' West Coast road trip finale against Golden State. The game tipped off at 10:30 here in Ohio, and I figured the medication would set in soon enough, putting me in a blissful, LeBron-induced coma.
I had the TV on mute to avoid the ramblings of new Cavs TV announcer Fred McLeod, who's a bigger homer than Bart Simpson's dad, and was listening to music from my iPod speaker. The Warriors went on a 20-4 run right before halftime and led 62-44 going into the break. I considered turning the game off but decided to see if the Cavs could rally early in the second half, even though I was exhausted and my eyelids had grown heavier than Rosie O'Donnell and Oprah Winfrey combined.
(Thank you, thank you, I'll be here all night! Although I'm on the lookout for some crazed feminists and Book Club members wanting to throw their purses at me.)
Anyway, halftime finally ended just as "Still Fly" from the Big Tymers came on my iPod. I was lying on my bed with my right ankle crossed over my left, and both hands behind my head. My mouth was slightly open to help my breathe because my nose was so clogged.
The Cavs started the half on a big run, cutting the 18-point deficit to two. I hadn't moved an inch. Everytime "Still Fly" ended, I would use my remote to start it up again.
But the Warriors responded with a run of their own, pushing their lead back up to double digits. Desperate, I switched to the next song, "I Feel Free" by Cream, and kind of rolled over onto my right side, trying to reverse the momentum. The Warriors kept on scoring. I put "Still Fly" back on and held my breath.
Now, if you're any kind of sports fan or took part in competitive athletics before, you have some type of superstitions. That's just how it works. You always hear about athletes eating the same pregame meal and the different rituals that they have to prepare themselves for games. When I played baseball, I would always trim my nails on days I knew I would pitch. Don't ask me why because I don't know. I devoutly followed the old baseball principle to never step on the foul line running on and off the field. After my final warmup pitch before an inning, I would always crouch low in front of the mound while the catcher threw down to second, then circle the mound clockwise - always clockwise - while the infielders tossed the ball "around the horn."
A few years back, in 2001, the Indians played the Seattle Mariners on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball. Trailing by 12 runs - 12 runs! - the Tribe staged a remarkable rally, winning the ballgame. I watched that game in my bedroom at home, lying flat on my stomach with my legs in the air, leaning against my doorway. Then, too, I dared not move an inch, lest the comeback be halted. When Ohio State beat Michigan this year, I had worn my lucky Ohio State boxers and vowed not to wear them again until the title game. It wasn't until halftime against Florida that I realized I didn't have them on. Racing back to my dorm room, I put them on just as the second half kicked off, but it was too little, too late. Even now, I wonder what if...
Last night, the Cavs trailed by 12 - irony? coincidence? - entering the fourth quarter. I had switched positions once again, rolling over onto my back, but this time with my left ankle crossed over my right, and with just my left hand behind my head.
Firmly entrenched in my belief that my actions 3,000 miles away had everything to do with the Cavs' success or failures in California, I knew I had to stick with "Still Fly" on the iPod. I freaked out everytime I heard the opening chords of "I Feel Free" when I was just a second slow in hitting the repeat button. Near the start of the fourth, I felt my bladder expanding faster than Charles Barkley's waistline after he retired. But I was glued in my position. Schaaf Hall could have been burning down and all of the RA's in the world couldn't have dragged me out of my room.
The Cavs rallied again. My physical condition was deteriorating. I honestly feared wetting myself. My entire left arm was throbbing in pain. My bladder screamed bloody murder at me. My eyes were glazing over, my vision blurred, and I could feel that "sleep" stuff crusting up in the corners of my eyes. For some reason, I really craved buying some "Gator boots with a pimped out Gucci suit."
LeBron hit a three to give Cleveland its first lead of the second half with about four minutes left. I was praying vehemently against overtime. I was exhausted, and my chest was starting to hurt too. With the score tied with 27 seconds left and the Cavs holding the ball, I knew this was it. I had nothing left to give.
Sasha Pavlovic missed a wide-open jumper. David Wesley, who I think was in a suit and tie during pregame warmups, grabbed the offensive rebound. LeBron attempted a jumpshot as the clock expired.
He missed. I bolted out of bed and raced to the bathroom. I got back just as the overtime period started. I had butterflies in my stomach for the first time watching a Cavs game since the Pistons series last year. Diving onto my bed, I hopped under my blanket and simply watched. I had done my part to get the boys into overtime; this was their time to do the rest. But I did keep replaying "Still Fly" - I must have listened to it roughly 20 times.
My friends returned from their night out about midway through overtime. I stared blankly at them as they described their evening, then returned my focus to LeBron and the Big Tymers.
I won't rehash the extra period. You can read the official recap everywhere. But as the Warriors' Stephen Jackson's three-point attempt at the buzzer rimmed out, I simply threw my hands up in the air in triumph...then went to bed.
(JACK CITY READERS: Do you have any crazy superstitions, sports-related or not, that you follow? Post them as comments or e-mail!)