Talking about magical thinking and spring sports [commentary]

As I look out the window over my laptop screen, my brain is saying, "if you write about the weather one more time, you're on your own, buddy." So, I'm going to have to write this without the help of that cabbage between my ears, because the kickoff point for this one is just that, the weather. After complaining for three weeks about how I was having traumatic memories resurface when I watched baseball and softball players standing around in 40-degree weather, everything switched about 10 days ago (I'm just assuming you're reading this on Friday). The rain held off, the temperature spiked upward and now I'm looking out my window on a cloudless, 70-degree morning. This is baseball weather, and I'm going to thank my brother for making it happen (keep reading and that will make more sense).

Last Friday, I took my first vacation day of the year to engage in a yearly ritual of attending the first Orioles' home game of the season with my brother and father. We've done this for each of the past six seasons, and though we've been blessed with clear skies and relatively warm temperatures for three years in a row now, the previous three saw us sitting in the upper deck freezing, or wet. Checking the National Weather Service's seven-day forecast the Monday before the game, I saw an 80-percent chance of rain, and, being a pessimist, I abandoned all hope. It was going to be a rain-out. The Baseball gods had forsaken us.

My brother was of another mind, though. Through Facebook updates and text messages, he kept up a stream of positivity all week, saying things like, "forecast I saw said 65 and sunny after 10 a.m. It's gonna be fine." By Wednesday I was cautiously accepting his optimistic outlook, though part of me still expected to see slick pavement and gray skies when I got up on game day.

When Friday morning rolled around, I saw that my brother had been right. I met my father in Baltimore and we walked from Penn Station to the Washington Monument under a cloudless sky. The temperature held at 65 degrees until the sun went down, and I even got a bit of a sunburn on my nose. When I asked my brother about his prediction, he said, "what did you think I was going to do, cheer for bad weather? Nobody wants to hear that. That's like rooting for the other team. That's a jinx."

He was right, and in his explanation lies some of the magical, superstitious thinking that infects us when we're at sporting events, be it as a spectator or a player. During my own playing days, though I had some superstitions with other sports, baseball season brought out the crazy in me. My gig line had to be absolutely straight (this is in high school, when we got proper uniforms that had buttoned pants and jerseys). I tapped home plate three times at the beginning of every at-bat. I couldn't touch the foul line coming on or off the field. I had to wear the same white undershirt every game, even if it was unwashed and smelled like body odor and dirt. As a catcher my sophomore season, even if I was seven hitters away from coming to the plate, I wouldn't put on my shinguards until there were two outs. The list goes on, but you get the idea.

I'm well aware that none of my rituals did anything other than calm my mind, but when things went well, like the time I threw out two potential base stealers at second in the same inning, it was even better that I'd followed through on all my craziness; that meant it was working. I know that turning my cap inside out when the Orioles are trailing late in the game has no real effect, but when Chris Davis hits a grand slam to cap an eighth-inning rally, it feels totally worth it to have looked like an idiot for a bit. I was there, in the madness, helping out the home team.

And so, my brother called for beautiful weather last Friday, and it came to pass. The Baseball gods smiled on us, and the O's won. Magical thinking and baseball, they go together.

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