Riddle of the Jinx


I think it was a Sunday in November, 1989. Autumn Sunday afternoons in my house were – and are – all about Philadelphia Eagles football. At that time guys like Randall Cunningham and Fred Barnett made the game so exciting you thought your head was going to explode. The Gang Green defense was like watching a machine.

My sister had taken my seat while I was stealing a slice of American cheese out of a shopping bag still on the kitchen floor. When I demanded it back in a shrill, yet manly, broken soprano, she refused and dropped into a defense mode with her heels utilized as howitzers. My dad, typically of the Laissez-faire parental style, put a moment’s thought into it, glanced at the television screen, and then strongly demanded my sister relinquish the seat. She went off to moan her plaints to my mother and I sat back down. I knew this wasn’t a case of judged fairness as much as it was about ritual. I had been sitting in that seat when the Eagles recovered a fumble a few moments before, and my dad foresaw better luck with me in that seat than he did with my sister. Had the Eagles thrown a touchdown pass in the moments he was deliberating he’d have just as easily sent me packing.

To watch football in my house was to take part in a sacred ritual. Before you roll your eyes and click on to a webpage which features nudity, let me be clear – I am not about to get nostalgic about how sports were the glue of our family or some other such frou-frou inanity. The most bonding my dad and I did while watching sports was the passing on of intensely complex vulgarities and technical sports terminology that I wouldn’t understand until the internet was invented. But still, watching a game was a sacred thing. And the most sacred aspect of this thing was avoiding the jinx.

By kicking my sister out, my dad had acted upon Rule Number 2 in game day ritual etiquette: no personal loyalties were observed during game time. My uncle once asked (told) my mother – seven months pregnant with my sister – to stay standing because the Phillies had a one-two-three inning while she’d been standing. My brother once ran away from home because my dad switched off the Flyers game before they were scored on and lost in the final seconds. My brother decided to move to a place where people worshiped the god of full time. And what’s more, we all understood.

Rule Number 1 was that one did not comment, in any direct or indirect way, on the likelihood of a Philadelphia team winning, no matter how strong the evidence suggested it. This includes all such phrases which suggest confidence, such as We got this one! or This one’s in the bag! or This game is over! Any of these were and are grounds for immediate dismissal from the living room and, depending upon how the game ended up, possible further punishment. If the Eagles blew a lead after your haphazard words, it was generally agreed upon by the other family members that the loss was a consequence of your loose lips and you were summarily blamed and vanquished from familial enterprises until a win occurred or you bought found chocolate.

A subsection of Rule 1 was that under no circumstances was anyone to celebrate a victory until the scoreboard clearly assigned us a higher amount of points and the clock read 00:00. And before you ask, no, 00:01 is not sufficient. Ask anyone. Even after this evidence was presented we might wait for something to happen, especially in these days of ubiquitous instant replay.

In my most critical of minds, all of this is of course ridiculous. However, if anyone broke any of these rules in my house, I would plan a painful revenge. The Jinx is something I have never understood and therefore hold in reverence. There is no greater sin than to think you have won before you have won. There is no greater infraction than to think you deserve something you haven’t yet earned.

It’s for these reasons that I am always kind of happy when a Philadelphia team is an underdog in a sporting event. It’s where we belong and it’s where we often flourish. I only hope that the Riddle of the Jinx takes note that I am not specifically naming any teams or specific sporting events. I hope it also takes into account the fact that while my sister was recently visiting, I made amends by allowing her to take any seat she wanted. And I have been practicing my intensely complex vulgarities. Have mercy.

  1. #1 by Angela Galeone on January 25, 2018 - 8:20 pm

    Oh my God. So true of our clan! I could not stop laughing!

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