We’re talking, of course, about the idea that a no-hitter can be jinxed by broadcasters, writers or fans simply by their mentioning its potential for happening. It’s an idea that is a byproduct of the superstitious nature of the sport of baseball, a culture in which players stop at nothing to keep a hot streak alive or kill a cold spell in its tracks. Whether it’s putting on socks in a certain order, wearing someone else’s pants, kissing a bat covered in pine tar or hopping over the foul line, there’s no superstition too silly for a baseball player to abide by.
So it’s not surprising that when a pitcher holds a team hitless through five or six innings, everyone tightens up. As everyone knows, it’s taboo to even think about mentioning the no-no while it’s in progress. If an announcer does indeed mention the words “no” and “hits” in any sort of combination, he’ll instantly become the target of fans’ ire when the no-hitter comes to an end (and they almost always do).
Nobody is questioning the spirit of tradition, but given the backlash that announcers and media types can face after a no-hitter goes awry, maybe it needs to be toned down a little.
After all, Mark Buehrle was memorably goofing around with teammates in the dugout during his perfect game. Teammates are supposed to give the pitcher the silent treatment in such moments, so as not to jinx him. Obviously, that didn’t put the hex on Buehrle.
And really, was Daisuke Matsuzaka tuning in to the FOX broadcast the other night in Philadelphia (though we know the residents of Connecticut weren’t), listening in and hoping that Eric Karros didn’t mention the no-hitter in progress? Did the Japanese righty log on to Twitter between innings to make sure no writers were talking about the potential no-no? Did he not have the idea in his mind already that he was closing in on something special?
Considering his face of bewilderment and shock after catching a scorched line drive to end the seventh inning, it’s safe to say Matsuzaka knew what was going on, regardless of whether or not anyone was talking about it. Really, Matsuzaka was unflappable on Saturday night, and he didn’t lose his no-hitter because some guy in the press box mentioned it; he lost it because bloop singles happen in baseball.
Of course, none of this is to implore baseball fans to toss out a century’s worth of tradition, but maybe when the dust has settled after a game, the blame game doesn’t pinpoint folks who had absolutely nothing to do with the results on the field.