Monday, August 30, 2004: It is time for me to make an admission that has been scaring the devil out of me for two months or more. As my faithful readers, and even a few faithless ones, might have divined, I do not much go in for the Curse of the Bambino hooey. Red Sox fans may well be sinners in the hands of an angry, vengeful, and even arbitrary God, but it is a God that allows us to our own devices.
That said, there is one curse in which I not only believe, but for which I am wholly responsible. It is a powerful curse, and one I am not certain I am able to counteract. Fortunately for Dan Shaughnessy, whose grandkids will be going to college on the spoils of Curse of the Bambino, my curse has neither the pithy title nor the broad appeal of his (and it is not really even his theory, but he has stolen judiciously, and for that we should admire him.) The Curse of Derek Going Abroad (which I am hereby naming Yank Abroad Not Knowing Sox’ Status Unusually Capricious as a Konsequence) is one that has ample evidence to bolster its existence.
Basically, the curse runs along these lines: Every time I leave the country for an extended time during baseball season, the Red Sox swoon. On occasions this is a season-long phenomenon, such as in 1997 when I lived for the duration of the year in South Africa and the Sox had a decidedly mediocre year. At other times, it manifests in short losing skeins that seem to overlap almost directly with my absences, such as for two or three months in 1999 when I was back in South Africa, or in 2000 when I left for the summer in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Both times the Red Sox had summers that were pretty woeful, and while the Sox occasionally come back from such nightmares, it still is a bit more than I like to be responsible for delivering. Last year when I left for Israel for ten days, the curse did not manifest as strongly, but it was not until I was back in the States that they began to recover from a pretty lackluster mid-season.
This brings us to my impending trip to England for some ten days. I have two conferences, one this weekend at the University of Kent in Canturbury, the other at the University of London the following weekend. In the interregnum I will do a bit of traveling, a bit of research, and a bit of catching up with some friends. But I am scared. I am very scared. You see, in a season that has been fraught with some pretty remarkable nadirs, I am tempting not merely fate, but I am tempting a curse the mojo of which has proven to be almost insurmountable. And I do not mean to be solipsistic about this. But it really is all about me.
The Sox play 11 games during my absence, depending on how one sees the game on the 12th, which starts at 4:00, when I will probably have landed in Dallas but will not have arrived in Midland. So call it ten games. (It figures, of course, that my hubris is rewarded with eleven days in a row of games with nary an offday in sight during the entire length of my trip. And this is not an easy stretch – while I am gone they finish the Anaheim series, they play three against Texas, three against Oakland, and after all of that they have a four game series with Seattle. Yes, the Mariners stink, but their stench still comes after nine huge games that may make or break the season).
So what to do? The dumbest thing would be to just whistle through the graveyard, to pretend that the curse is not REAL and thus not worth acknowledging. (Remember that I do not believe in curses. But I’d be a fool to deny this – I mean, it is ME, I am IT). And so instead what I hope to do is to blog through the graveyard. To stay up late or get up early, to know in as close to real time what is happening in Fenway and out west, and to hope that fate knows that I am on the case, and that still, I believe.
I acknowledge that I am treading on some dangerous ground here, and that my chutzpah might be swiftly and resoundingly punished, and for those of you who are Sox fans out there, just know that this is going to hurt me a lot more than it does you (really). But I am brave. And you should be too. For if this truly is the year, then the guys are just going to have to break on through to the other side of this vexing hex. Like other alleged curses, this is one we simply have to overcome. And we shall overcome.