“So,” Hugh Kaufman said Wednesday afternoon outside the Nats Park center field gate, “we’ve got the chicken, the flag, the autographed Davey Johnson baseball. We’ve got the castration knife....”
That was, of course, a misnomer. No one was getting castrated on this day. It was just a bunch of baseball fans, gathered on their lunch breaks or whatnot to cut the head off a rubber chicken.
“This is the first time we’ve done this,” Kaufman pointed out. “I usually sacrifice chickens while we’re having losing streaks.
“He said that with a straight face,” observed Dan, who wisely was going just by his first name for media purposes.
In case you missed it, when he was discussing the team’s rash of injuries on Tuesday, Davey Johnson started this whole thing by mentioning “superstitions to change our luck.”
“Sacrifice a chicken or something,” Johnson joked.
Well, maybe he was joking.
“I think Davey has recognized the importance of baseball Voodoo...and so again has shown tremendous leadership for this squad,” Kaufman told us.
Kaufman’s propensity to cut the heads off rubber chickens has been discussed in this paper before; Dave Fahrenthold wrote about his first chicken sacrifice in 2005, and I wrote about how he started sacrificing Kosher rubber chickens in 2009. He claims to have done the deed a dozen times since the Nats arrived in D.C.; “we’ve had some rough years,” he observed.
The ceremony is rooted not just in “Major League” and similar baseball lore, but also in the Jewish Kaporos ritual, an extremely rare Hasidic sacrifice involving swinging a live chicken over your head before offing it.
“This is an offshoot of that,” Kaufman said. “That’s when you transfer the sins to the sacrificed animal. When you take the head off, that gets rid of the bad JuJu.”
At previous sacrifices, Kaufman has swung the rubber chicken in a clockwise motion. For the Davey Johnson injury sacrifice — which doesn’t really involve a losing streak — he was going with counter-clockwise.
The guys, of course, are all part of the Secret Society of the Rubber Chicken, with the pins and hats and Chicken Mode shirts to prove it. Gio Gonzalez saw a Chicken Mode shirt during Spring Training, and approved. “We’ve got too much Beast Mode around here; we need more Chicken Mode,” he reportedly said.
Davey Johnson, of all people, turned down an offer of a T-shirt. Maybe he’ll change his mind after this.
“I need someone to hold one end of the chicken,” Kaufman told his three friends. Scott Ableman of Let Teddy Win stepped forward, and offered a few counter-clockwise spins.
“I can almost see the evil spirits lifting,” Dan said.
“Hey, the clouds are parting,” Luis noticed.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bam-Bam get another home run or two this series,” Kaufman said.
Then he lopped off the head of the rubber chicken using a few cutting motions — “it’s all in the wrist,” he said — and thrust the bird into the air.
“The curse is broken!!!!!” he said.
“We’re very thankful, man,” Luis said.
“We’ll see if it works,” Hugh said.
“Hey, you might want to put that knife away,” Luis advised.
“You’ve got to try everything,” Hugh said to conclude matters. “There’s no such thing as overkill.”
Try telling that to the chicken.
Anyhow, the whole ceremony didn’t last more than 15 minutes or so, and there’s not much to do after you’ve taken the head off a rubber chicken.
“You guys want to do lunch?” Luis asked.
I suggested they eat the decapitated chicken.
“I hear it’s a little rubbery,” Scott said.
(Read Scott’s take here. Video later.)