King Kaufman's Sports Daily

Jinx! Another no-hitter destroyed by loose lips. Were you to blame?


Salon Staff
August 31, 2007 8:00PM (UTC)

Chien Ming Wang of the New York Yankees was walking off the mound after retiring the Boston Red Sox in the fifth inning of Thursday's game at Yankee Stadium.

"Things are getting interesting," Yes Network announcer Michael Kay said. "Chien Ming Wang has not allowed a hit through five."

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Kay took some heat a year ago for the exact same thing, saying on the air that Wang had a perfect game going. According to baseball superstition, talking about a no-hitter jinxes it, and what do you know, Wang didn't get his perfecto.

Kay later went bug nuts on his radio show when a caller criticized him for violating "baseball etiquette" by mentioning the no-hitter. In a bizarre rant, he said, "It used to be 'etiquette' to have black people as slaves," and then, by way of dismissing the unwritten rule of not mentioning a no-hitter: "There's a lot of rules that don't make sense. That's why there was Nazi Germany. Why did they march people into ovens? Well, that's what they told them to do."

Kind of a bad day there for Kay, who managed to keep his job. But while it doesn't, oh, doesn't quite reach equivalency to slavery or the Holocaust, that whole jinxing the no-hitter thing is a pretty silly superstition and there's no reason Kay or any other announcer should pander to it. He seems to make a point of mentioning no-hitters in progress around the fifth inning, which is just about the right time to notice a no-hitter, if you ask me.

I'm not given to superstition, but when I was a kid (uh-oh ... run!) I used to do that thing all sports fans do at some point in their lives: I'd be listening to a game on the radio or watching it in person or on TV, and if things were going well for my team, I'd tell myself I had to keep doing whatever I was doing or the good stuff would stop.

So if I had my legs crossed and the Lakers went on a 12-0 run, I couldn't uncross them till the run ended -- lest the run end. The reverse too. Things were going badly, I'd better switch something up. You know what I'm talking about.

One day I figured out, or imagined, that when I said, "Come on," bad things happened. I'd say, "Come on, score!" as the Rams were lining up for third-and-goal, and they'd get stuffed. I'm sure it happened, like, twice. So I never said, "Come on" to my team anymore.

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I'll yell it now, but I always have that thought that maybe I'm jinxing something. I don't actually believe that I have some kind of power over large groups of large people in distant places who don't even know me. Shoot, there's a very small group of very small people who know me intimately and live right in my house, and I have no control over them.

A lot of people do seem to think they have this power. Just last week I was at the ballpark and the hometown pitcher retired the first nine men he faced. When he gave up a hit in the fourth inning, a woman down the row started half-joking about how someone sitting nearby had jinxed the perfect game by mentioning it. I had mentioned it too.

I thought, "15,000 people in this ballpark are saying the same thing to the other 15,000 about themselves or someone down the row." Superstitions are just crazy.

Which is why I want to make it clear that Kaufman's Law is not superstition. It's an actual law of nature. Kaufman's Law states that when you are waiting at a bus stop, the same bus traveling in the other direction will always arrive before your bus does.

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A corollary says that if two or more bus lines stop at your stop, the first bus that comes will never be the one you want.

None of this is to be confused with Kaufman's Theorem of Interconnectedness, which states that any two items that can become entangled will become entangled. This is known in various circles as the Hanger Law or the Rule of Cables and Cords. Some people believe it has applications in interpersonal relations, but we stick to purely scientific matters around here.

Also purely scientific is my latest discovery, about which I'll be publishing a paper soon in Nature, or maybe just talking about after three or four drinks Friday: Kaufman's Healthcare Dictum.

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Kaufman's Healthcare Dictum states that when you change health insurance carriers, and you're in that weird transition period where you don't have cards or I.D. numbers or anything yet from the new carrier and you don't even know who to call or where to go if one of your kids gets sick, one of your kids will get sick.

Might have to work on that wording a little, but I hear you asking: What does all this have to do with sports?

It's why there was no sports column in this space Wednesday.

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Wang struck out David Ortiz to end the sixth inning, no-hitter still intact, and as Wang trudged off the mound Kay said, "Start making phone calls if you've got some friends who are Yankees fans. This is getting interesting."

Wang lost the no-hitter on a clean single by Mike Lowell in the seventh. Of course he did. Kay jinxed it.

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Youppi woulda caught it [PERMALINK]

Pat Burrell of the Philadelphia Phillies hit the first of his two home runs against the New York Mets at home Thursday afternoon, and the Phillies mascot almost caught it. What are the odds?

The Phillie Phanatic, a guy in a big, fuzzy, bright green costume with a giant beak for a face, just happened to be hanging around in the first row of the left-field bleachers when Burrell hit his shot against Orlando Hernandez. He -- the Phanatic -- reached up and to his left, but the ball was about a foot beyond his reach. The guy standing next to the Phanatic caught the homer.

If the Phillie Phanatic, in that costume, had caught that ball, it would have been the greatest catch I'd ever seen.

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Previous column: College football opens

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