I'm a very rational person with one huge exception...sports.
Logically, I know that the clothing I wear, the TV I watch a game on, and the people I'm watching it with have no effect on the outcome of the game. Just don't tell me that on game day.
Especially on Super Bowl Sunday.
I shared my father's love for football, college and pro. We spent most Saturdays and Sundays parked in front of the TV with him rooting for Penn State and the Giants, and little me pulling for the Steelers. My math skills come from calculating point spreads and teasers and a young age. I could give you the line from any game and where the smart money was headed.
My dad firmly believed in lucky TVs, correct seating in the room, and who is allowed to watch a game. My mother and grandmother cost the Giants or whatever team my dad had bet on many a teaser, so this insane football logic made perfect sense to me.
THE RECENT PAST
I didn't realize that I had inherited this unique gene until the Steelers/Colts playoff game of 2005. After upsetting the Bengals (how's the knee, Carson?) on Wild Card weekend, the #6 seed Steelers were double digit underdogs playing the #1 Colts in Indianapolis. They needed to play a perfect game to win, and miraculously they were up 21-18 with the ball on the Colts 2 yard line after sacking Peyton Manning on 4th down with 1:20 left.
The Colts had 3 timeouts left, so the Steelers couldn't just take a knee. That's when my wife Debbie, who I love dearly and tolerates all my BS, came into the room and uttered the words you're never supposed to say until the clock reads 0:00.
DEB: Oh, they're going to win, congratulations!
This is almost as bad as saying "I can't believe we didn't hit any traffic" before arriving at your destination. Or Dan Dierdorf saying "Jerome Bettis hasn't fumbled the ball all season long", because on the next play from scrimmage, that's exactly what happened. Nick Harper picked up that Bettis fumble and broke for a game winning touchdown.
ME (standing and dumbfoundedly screaming): Oh my fucking god! Oh my fucking god!
Thankfully, Big Ben tackled Harper at the Colts 42. But Peyton drove the Colts downfield, setting up Mike Vanderjagt for a game tying 46 yard field.
Dick Enberg delivered the reverse jinx of "Mike Vanderjagt hasn't missed a field goal at home all season", and his kicked sailed wide right and the Steelers were on their way to crushing Denver in the AFC championship and beating Seattle in Super Bowl XL.
Now was it fair to blame Debbie for the fumble? At the time, absolutely. Looking back at it realistically, of course not. But the damage was done. Debbie wouldn't go near me watching a football game for years, rightfully so.
Every player has his game day ritual. It comforts them and prepares them for the game. I know I'm not an active participant, but I do have my game day superstitions as well.
1. Clothing - Team t-shirt worn underneath a team sweatshirt. If the team loses, switch up either one until you find the right combination.
2. Food - Same stuff as the previous playoff game. I hit the McDonalds in Plainview before the Ravens game, and I was there for the Jets game as well. Count on me hitting that drive thru around 5pm today and ordering the same meal.
3. Communication - Radio silent, except for my childhood friend Frank who is a fellow Steelers fanatic. We text during the breaks in the game. No other phone calls, Twitter, etc. Must focus.
4. Room - I watched Santonio Holmes beat the Cardinals on my 58" Panasonic. I'll be sitting in the same spot on the couch watching the same TV.
SUPER BOWL SUNDAY
Two Sundays ago, I watched the Steelers beat the Jets and earn the right to head back to the Super Bowl. I almost shut off the game at halftime, because if the Steelers blew a lead like that, I didn't want to see it.
I have zero interest in attending a Super Bowl party. I prefer to watch the Steelers at home in a quiet room, so I can actually WATCH the game and hear what the announcers have to say. I admit it's antisocial, but do you chat it up while watching a movie or seeing a Broadway play? Gary graciously invited me to hit man cave for the AFC Championship, but I couldn't watch the game with Jets fans. He understood.
In spite of my quirks I think that I've come a long way. Debbie watched the entire AFC Championship game with me. My daughters floated in and out of the room, though I admit I wasn't upset when one of the girls left as the Jets were coming back in the second half.
And then there's Molly, the dog we got only a few months ago. Is it a coincidence that the Steelers haven't lost a game I've watched with the dog? I'm not going to take that chance this afternoon at 6:30.
Here we go, Steelers! Let's get that seventh Lombardi trophy. Or I'll have to get a whole new wardrobe.