Sports are sacred around Boston. And inside the walls of my parents’ house, they become even more so. It starts as soon as you walk in the door. Magnets hold up Patriots schedules and newspaper clippings from the Super Bowl years. Two commemorative footballs rest on the floor next to the absurdly huge television, on which we watch the game in its full High Definition beauty. We have Patriots ornaments, decorations, trains, Christmas stockings, sweatpants, jerseys and coats. Same with the Red Sox.
I used to have a dog named Fenway, while my brother named his dog Bruschi (after Tedy Bruschi, the great Patriots linebacker).
Needless to say, we are a superstitious bunch when it comes to watching the games. We truly believe where we’re sitting, what we’re wearing and who is in the house at the time all play a part in determining the outcome of the game. We have lucky jerseys, coins, balls, bats and assigned seats. And we are very wary of who we let in the house during games.
Because if you’ve never been in the house during a game, we have no idea if you’re bad luck. And if you’re bad luck, you can’t come in.
Just ask Melissa, my sister-in-law. When she came over to the house years ago for the first time during a game, there was tension. And it wasn’t just the usual “meeting someone’s family for the first time” kind of tension either. In fact, my father—not one to mince words—described the tension right to Melissa’s face when he said “Hi Melissa, it’s very nice to meet you and I’ve heard nice things about you. But if the Patriots lose while you’re here, you can’t come back.”
I’d like to tell you that was said in jest, but I’d be lying. Thankfully the Patriots won.
So, getting back to Sunday’s game. First of all, it snowed on Sunday morning, which automatically triggered a family tradition dating back years. So my dad and I donned our snow gear, went outside and went to work. We didn’t shovel the walk or clear off the cars. Hell no. We made a snowman. Then we went inside to where we keep the lucky sticks we’ve used as snowman hands for the past eight years, alongside the lucky Patriots pom-poms from the 2003 Pats-Jets game. With Will’s help, we put the arms on the snowman and attached the pom-poms, and topped it all off with a Patriots hat.
From there, the snowman stays until it crumbles or melts. The hat, sticks and pom-poms must remain where they drop on the lawn until the next snowfall, at which point the cycle begins all over again.
When kickoff rolled around it was me, my father, my mother, my Uncle Paul and my Aunt Darleen. They were at the house a few times earlier this year for games and the Patriots had won, so they were in the clear. However, Sunday’s game started off horribly. Pittsburgh was killing us and nothing was going right for the Patriots. We tried some early adjustments in the living room but nothing seemed to be working. Until…
Darleen had to go outside to move her car. While she was out there, the Patriots intercepted Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger deep in Pittsburgh territory. We all jumped up simultaneously to cheer. And in our next breath, we all ran towards the door to lock it so Darleen couldn’t come back inside so we could preserve the good luck. We made her wait out there for five minutes in the cold with no coat on until the Patriots scored a touchdown.
The most telling part is, Darleen never complained or questioned what we were doing or why. She knew and understood.
Unfortunately it wasn’t enough. After we let Darleen in and the game wore on, things started to get desperate. I left my usual seat and stood in the kitchen. No good. My dad cycled through his collection of “lucky” trinkets which he swears brought this team three Super Bowls. Nada. I then turned my jersey around and tied one of Will’s scarfs around my head and wore it like Rambo. Zilch. We were all doing whatever we could to bring the team luck, and that’s when I noticed something out of the corner of my eye.
My uncle Paul was hunched over grabbing at something I couldn’t readily see, so I asked him what he was doing.
“Taking off my leg,” he said nonchalantly.
Yup. You read that right. My uncle, who has had a prosthetic leg since he was a teenager, was not joking. He was taking off his fake leg in a desperate attempt to spark some life into the Patriots. I can only imagine what would be said about us if a stranger had walked in just then, to see me with a backwards jersey and a child’s scarf wrapped around my head, my father worshiping his lucky coin as if it had magical powers, my poor Aunt freezing to death outside and my one-legged uncle sacrificing a limb to bring the Patriots good fortune.
I know, I know. You’re reading this and shaking your head thinking “what a bunch of fucking idiots.” Well, SCREW YOU! I am a 32-year-old adult man and yes, I believe my actions have an impact on the game. My family members believe it too. Which is probably why I watched Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS standing pantsless on MJ’s couch and holding her cat while I called my brother and father who were watching from outside on the back deck while holding a lucky bat and an unscrewed broomstick (to avoid the sweep).
Hey, it’s fun. And frankly it’s nice to have family traditions, which one day will be adopted by Will. It may make us a little insane, but these oddball antics also bring us together.
But still, it might be safer to call or email before you come over on game day.