Butte High didn’t win the Class AA State softball tournament over the weekend, and for that I take full responsibility.
I jinxed them. Apparently, that is one of the things I do best.
The night before the Bulldogs opened the tournament against Missoula Sentinel, I gave head coach Ryan Stosich the “kiss of death” as he departed following his appearance on the sports radio show KBOW Overtime.
I was hosting the show that night along with coach John Thatcher and High Ore Road superstar C.D. Holter, and Stosich was our guest. Stosich told me he would, as usual, give me a call following the first game, “win or lose.”
My response was something like, “oh, you’re going to win.”
For a guy who has dedicated the first 44 years of his life following sports, you would think I would know better.
Thatcher and Stosich both immediately reacted like I just spit on them. They were looking for salt to throw over their shoulder or anything that might undo that curse.
Even though I believed in the Curse of the Bambino until the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, I figured the Bulldogs would be safe of any accidental jinxes I could put on them.
The Bulldogs would beat Sentinel and then take on unbeaten Great Falls in the second round, I figured.
Butte High had the pitching, hitting and defense to make a deep run into Saturday of the state tournament in Helena.
The great philosopher Tedd Stansisich once told me that you need two things to win a state title in any high school sport. No. 1, you have to be damn good. No. 2, you have to be damn lucky.
The Bulldogs had No. 1 going for them. Because of me, they did not have No. 2.
Nothing went right for the Bulldogs in the first game of the tournament. They “laid an egg,” Stosich said before thanking me again for giving him the “kiss of death.”
Stosisch said he was just joking with me, but I know he believes deep down that I did, indeed, curse the Bulldogs.
In sports, we believe in superstitions. That’s why every player — at least the ones who aren’t clinically insane — make sure to avoid stepping on the baseline while entering the field of play.
That’s why Wade Boggs ate chicken before every game. That’s why nobody sits by a pitcher when he’s got a no-hitter past the fifth inning.
Superstitions are real because, well, people are crazy.
But, as Crash Davis so eloquently described to Annie Savoy 30 years ago, players have to respect the streak.
If a baseball player thinks he is winning because he’s wearing women’s underwear, Crash said, then he is.
That’s why we could all relate to the scene on the movie 1996 movie “Celtic Pride” when Mike and Jimmy kicked their friend Chris out of the Boston Garden because he was the “bad luck guy.”
That is why we wear lucky socks. Because they work.
I wore my lucky red socks for the first time to watch Game 4 of the 2004 American League Championship Series. Those socks helped spring Boston to overcome a 3-0 deficit to the Yankees.
I wore them for eight straight games without washing them — I may be crazy, but I’m not nuts — and the Red Sox won eight straight games to break the Curse.
I broke them out again when Boston trailed 3-1 to the Indians in the 2007 ALCS. The Red Sox won the next seven games for yet another World Series title thanks to my stinky, lucky red socks.
I’m still waiting for the Red Sox to send me my rings.
So yes, I take full responsibility for jinxing the Butte High girls, and I offer a humble, heartfelt apology.
I don’t expect them to forgive me.
I know my friend Mike Rapp still won’t forgive me for jinxing him almost 23 years ago. I wrote about that day years ago when I worked at the daily newspaper, but the story is worth repeating.
On Aug. 5, 1995, I played the back nine with Mike when was in the zone at the Highland View Golf Course.
Mike shot a 31 on the front nine, and he started out the back with a birdie on No. 10 to move to 5 under par. The course record of 6 under on the par-70 course was set by Dave Cashell 12 years earlier.
A plaque recording the round hung on the wall in the clubhouse, and we gazed at that plaque in awe on a daily basis.
Cashell, by the way, was Mike’s boss on the Butte Country Club grounds crew at the time. How cool would it be to break the record held by your boss?
Mike also birdied 13 and 14 to go to 7 under. Then ol’ big mouth shot off.
Sometime while either walking to the 15th hole or while walking up the par 5, I said something along the line of, “Mike, you should bring that plaque and throw it to Dave tomorrow morning.”
At the time, I thought I was going along with a fun conversation. To the rest of the group, I might as well have just said, “Hey, do you know you have got a perfect game going?”
They all acted like I just spit on them.
Mike followed by hitting his second shot into the water behind the green on No. 15.
“Yes. The very next shot after you talked about shooting the course record,” Mike said. “Not that I really remember.”
I thought he was going to kill me. I’m actually surprised that he didn’t send me to the clubhouse like Mike and Jimmy sent the “bad luck guy” out of the Garden.
Mike was playing so well, though, that he saved par despite taking the penalty stroke.
He also parred 16 and 17, so I was feeling pretty safe about my curse. He was 7 under and just need to par the last hole to break the record.
I felt really safe when Mike hit the green in regulation and had a makeable birdie putt.
The pin was in kind of a tricky spot, though, and Mike was overly aggressive with his putt for a 62. We were all speechless when he missed the next putt and settled for a tie at 64.
To this day, nobody has shot a 63 on that course, yet the group headed to the clubhouse like our puppy just died.
After Butte High lost out of the Class AA State tournament with a win and two losses, I asked Mike if he still blames me for him hitting a 64 instead of a 63.
“Only every other day,” he said.
It’s good to see Mike is making progress after 23 years.
I’m pretty sure Mike, who is now the general manager/superintendent at Falcon Crest Golf Club near Boise, Idaho, was thinking about my jinx multiple times a day 10 years ago.
That gives me a little hope.
Maybe in time Stosich and the Bulldogs will start to forgive me for that kiss of death.
I’ll check back in 2041.
— Bill Foley, who guarantees the Yankees will win the World Series this year, writes a column that appears Tuesdays on ButteSports.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74