20
Jan

June 14, 1992. Game six of the NBA Finals between the Chicago Bulls and Portland Trail Blazers. It’s the end of the third quarter. Bulls are down by fifteen points. I am in the bathroom… praying.

That’s not a euphemism. I did it a lot as a kid, this praying to God in the bathroom. Every time one of my teams began to falter, I would calmly excuse myself from the living room and go have a chat with The Man Upstairs. Why I didn’t use my bedroom, which was just next door, I don’t know. I suppose I thought the intimacy of the bathroom was a better spot to beg. In exchange for a victory, I would promise God the world, which is a tad ironic when you think about it. I also put Him on the spot quite a bit. Many a time I uttered the phrase, “If you really love me…” Yet our conversations were mostly one-sided, and not so much a conversation at all as a desperate plea for my team to win.

My dad couldn’t watch the game either. At about the same time that I rendered the bathroom occupied, he decided to take a walk around the block. That’s where he did most of his praying. My family didn’t mess around. We immediately invoked help from the Da Big Guy because above all else, this series could not go to a game seven. My father and I needn’t have worried, though. Our beloved Bulls came back from that deficit to win the game – and a repeat championship title – with a final score of 97-93.

To date, I’ve never had to deal with a game seven. How exactly do fans survive one? I fear them more than earthquakes. At least earthquakes you can prepare for. I have a stockpile of bottled water and candles should ever The Big One hit, but I just don’t know what I would do if a game seven happened. A crushed apartment I can handle; a crushed heart I cannot.

I’m not a hugely superstitious sports fan. Every time one of my teams makes it to the postseason, though, I do find it necessary to perform a ritual or two to help out in any way I can. There’s the praying in the bathroom. I think that one makes a lot of sense. Yet sometimes I’ll take a break from watching the game for an altogether different reason. Though I love my teams, occasionally I feel like I might be bad luck for them. Somewhere deep down inside, I know that I’m affecting their performance so I’ll shut off the television. Crazy, right? How can a devoted fan be anything other than good luck? But guess what? Half of the time, my team rebounds after I stop watching and they end up winning the game. So there. It works.

As mentioned, though, the worst is when the game is close. I may get a lot of flack for this, but it’s kind of a load off when you know your team is going to lose. Case in point? Super Bowl XLI. It started promisingly enough with Hester’s kickoff return touchdown, but pretty much went downhill from there. Of course I didn’t want the Bears to lose, but if it wasn’t meant to be that day, then I was thankful to have had those three hours to come to terms with my grief. Had they lost from a last-minute field goal or touchdown, I would have had a heart attack.

I’m just getting too old for the stress that comes with watching a close game… June 9, 2010. Game six of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Chicago Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers. Overtime. I didn’t even have the energy to walk to the bathroom. Instead, I was curled up in the fetal position on the couch, pillow over my head. A few moments had passed with me not knowing what the hell was going on, so I snuck a peek just as Kane made that fateful goal… The goal no one realized he scored. I remember sitting there utterly confused while the sportscasters and referees and players themselves looked around, wondering why Kane and Co. were stripping off their gear and celebrating. Huh? They won? Really? Oh… They won!

Now my Bears are just one game away from playing in Super Bowl XLV. I haven’t had much of an appetite lately. My sleep has been only so-so. I know one thing, though. Come Sunday morning, I will most certainly be having a little heart-to-heart with a certain JC – and I don’t mean Jay Cutler – to give my guys the edge against Green Bay. But seriously, how can God possibly back a team whose fans call themselves Cheeseheads? (Shakes head.)

Image: renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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