Below the Beltway
Mojo League Baseball
Sunday, September 18, 2005; 8:42 PM
I am not superstitious or particularly spiritual. I don't believe in fate, and I remain agnostic on the power of prayer. But I am also a guy, so I understand, deep in my soul, assuming we have souls, that the beliefs and behavior of a sports fan have a direct bearing upon the team for which he roots. I mean, that's just common knowledge. Ask any guy.
And so it is that, in the last few months, I have been living a Guy's Worst Nightmare.
This year, Washington got a new baseball team, and I decided to become a rabid fan. I bought the paraphernalia.
I followed batting averages. And, of course, I began going to the games.
The first game I went to, the Nats lost. Second game, same result. Third? Not a charm. (This was during a time that the team was winning most of its home games and leading its division.) At this point, friends and colleagues began to beg off going to games with me, since I seemed to be a jinx. So for the fourth game, I brought my kids. Loss. For the fifth game, I dragged my wife. Loss.
I consulted a statistician. He calculated that, based upon the team record at the time, the odds of my having attended five losses and no wins -- assuming it was a matter of pure chance -- were less than one in 200.
And so I did what any devoted guy fan would do under similar circumstances. I stopped going to games. When I mentioned this tragedy in an online chat, a reader named Jeremy Weiss volunteered that he had been to eight games and that the Nats had won them all. He had the ticket stubs to prove it. He offered to go to a game with me, to break my curse.
Now, I am not an irresponsible person, given to impetuous actions that could have unforeseen consequences. I explained the situation to Paul Steinhardt, a theoretical physicist at Princeton University. He holds the chair named after Albert Einstein.
Me: So, if I go to a game with this guy, from a standpoint of quantum physics, what is the probability that this confluence of immovable object and irresistible force will cause the world to end?
Paul: We can't rule it out.
So on the one hand, by going to this game, I maybe could purge my curse and start attending baseball games again. On the other, the universe could explode. It was a hard choice. Ask any guy.
Jeremy and I met at the stadium. He is 25, good-looking and self-possessed, a long-distance runner. He's in the Coast Guard and has served as a weapons officer on a cutter. He has fired machine guns. He's a toughie. It's in his genes: His mom teaches adult ed to sexual deviant felon lifers at a state pen.