Thursday, April 24, 2008

At the risk of allowing this space to become a perpetual pity party, I would like to discuss curses. It was, after all, in the City of Curses that Monday's meltdown manifested its malice. Compounding matters, I was coming from its arch-nemesis, whose baseball teams (Yankees, Dodgers, Mets) won 29 World Series to Boston's zilch between 1918 and 2004. Most people forget that Boston also had two baseball teams until 1952, and that the Braves promptly won a title upon moving to Milwaukee. When I stood up in a hotel room and polled my advisors on which shorts to wear, I was unwittingly wrapping myself and my own curse into the long, rich history of athletic futility that is the city of Boston.

Exactly six months prior this affirmation, I had purchased hideous bright yellow short shorts for their kitsch value from a mysterious vendor in Detroit. He tried to tell me something, probably about something minor and pointless, but I like to think he was trying to alert me of the curse. I have worn those shorts just three times and run three terrible races, each more of a spectacular failure than the last. In fact, if you don't count the races where I wore those shorts, I haven't really had a bad race in about two years. If you take out those shorts, I have done nothing but run a stellar string of flawless races and personal bests dating back almost a year.

My take on curses echoes what Billy Bob Thornton's overworked high school football coach in Friday Night Lights believed: "our only curses are the ones that are self-imposed." This, he said, as a three-way coin toss began to decide whether or not he would keep his job. The point, of course, is that life is very unpredictable, but connecting the dots of failure into a curse is self-imposed torture.

I left the shorts in a trash can somewhere in upstate New York just in case, but I can't say I also left my preoccupation with unpredictability back there. I had some very definite ideas in the winter of how my life would be this year and I couldn't have been more wrong. I don't spin everything that happens into a blessing, but unpredictability and uncertainty have had benefits. I pray more, I want less, and I'm happier. For all you know, by next month I'm going to be eking out an existence trawling for Alaskan king crab. I certainly don't know, but it doesn't bother me at all.

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