Wednesday, August 27, 2014

So much for Shawn Kelly's horse head

Listen: There's something about juju that everybody needs to know:

Once you tell the world your secret, you always wonder if you didn't just blow it. In the back of your mind, a voice is always whispering, "Once you tell everybody, it's over."

In my book, "The Juju Rules, or How to Win Ballgames from Your Couch" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012) the first rule of Juju is simple: DO NOT TALK ABOUT FIGHT CLUB. (See what I mean? We don't even mention the j-word.)

I'm sure Shawn Seabuscuit Kelly is wondering today if he should have mentioned the horse-head mask that he had donned for five straight games - five straight victories - to a Yahoo sports reporter. The story moved nationally and, for a few hours anyway, raised hopes among Yankee fan-fools, of which I am one.

Listen: Juju does exist. It's beauty - it's success - stems from the most powerful performance-enhancing drug known to humanity: The placebo. 

In study after study, over generations of clinical work, scientists have found that people who believe in the snake oil always get a little more boost than those who do not. This won't help the evangelical preacher who attempts to faith heal Ebola in the Congo. But when Martin Prado steps into the box against David Price, it might just sharpen his confidence just enough to pull the trigger on a belt-high fast ball.

Baseball players are not always the sharpest knife in the butcher block. Can you imagine driving across the country with Paul O'Neill talking all the way? Keep in mind, his sister wrote for The New York Times. If ballplayers believe there is a nation of nutcase fans who are pacing in their rooms, holding up amulets and photographs of Thurman Munson, then - at least for some of them - there is always a trace of hope, even in the worst of situations. I believe the New York Yankees have built the largest army of practicing wackos. We have the juju to win the World Series every year - though the Redsocks certainly have built a sizable juju war machine, as evidenced by their beards last year and the zealous belief that Boston was a city fated to win the championship. You could feel that juju coursing through September.

And maybe the Yankees felt it Monday night, after they crushed Kansas City. Frankly, Shawn Kelly should kept quiet about the horse head. Last night, it probably wouldn't have mattered. Maybe we were fated to lose. But once Kelly mentioned it publicly, he had to know that he looked like a fool and that he was jinxing his secret good luck charm.

A juju rule: Never jinx your secret good luck charm.

The Yankees lost. Tonight, Kelly can wear the horse head, but he'll only feel like a fool. The placebo only works when people believe. It's getting harder and harder to believe.

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