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grounded again
when sports karma goes wrong
by michelle von euw

As I sit toward the back of an uncomfortably warm airplane, surrounded by strangers as we not-so-patiently wait through the latest delay in an evening full of them, all I can think of is that some time, somewhere, I unwittingly made a deal with the devil.

It’s the only explanation –- granted, it’s been a long night of thwarted travel, running through the Atlanta airport, hopping off then back on again this flight home, so there’s no guaranteeing my mind is working properly, but here, in this moment, it makes perfect sense. My current lack of travel luck all has to do with my Boston sports fanaticism, and how that has changed, how I have changed, since 2001.

Let me try to explain.

Last century, Boston sports fans were a completely different breed than the overly confident, ring-happy bunch you see today. Back then, we wanted a championship so badly –- particularly for our Red Sox -– that we made all sorts of cosmic deals, theoretically trading away relationships, dreams, possessions for a World Series victory, blithely bragging about how much we’d sacrifice just to see our baseball/football/basketball/all of the above team reach the pinnacle of success.

Apparently, in one of those ill-considered moments, I traded my bad sports karma for bad airplane karma.

Well, my hometown danced, and now payment is due.

I’m writing this column in longhand as the temperatures inside this aircraft drift upwards toward 2000 degrees late at night on a Georgia runway as another announcement is made tacking another unknown amount of time onto the length of our eventual flight that has now stretched four hours past takeoff. I’m in the middle seat, and my husband is several rows behind on the other side of the aisle, with my book and magazine. Tonight’s delay: thunderstorms. The same reason two of my last most recent flights were canceled.

It doesn’t matter when I fly, it doesn’t matter who I fly, it doesn’t matter where I fly -– in the last few years, I’ve courted bad luck in Atlanta, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Washington, and several times in Baltimore. Airport chairs have become almost comfortable, as I’ve logged more time in terminals than on actual flights.

I don’t even fly that often anymore. Since April, I’ve been on a plane four times, and two of those flights have been delayed longer than four hours. Two of my last three flights to Boston involved me driving away from the Baltimore airport around midnight, and coming back the next morning to try again.

A few years ago, I spent seven hours the day after Christmas getting on and off two different planes before finally arriving home from what should have been a one-hour flight at 4 a.m. the next morning. I’ve drank more cocktails in airport bars, read more issues of Us Weekly and killed more iPod, cell phone, and laptop batteries in terminals that I care to remember. I’ve witnessed gate agents go from pleasant to downright surly in a span of mere hours. I’ve been lied to, manipulated, sweet-talked, and scolded by more airline employees than I can count. I’ve kept my parents and my husband and my brother and the occasional friend on constant hold as they’ve waited on the other end for me to arrive.

It wasn’t always like this. For the two years before we were married, my husband and I lived 500 miles apart, and we flew at least every other weekend. He was the one who got re-routed during a hurricane, who had an overnight in Philadelphia when a snowstorm kept his flight out of New England, who watched the Super Bowl in a Southwest gate area. I managed to traverse back and forth between Boston and Washington on a monthly basis with only the most minor delays.

It was only after our wedding, when our flights became significantly less frequent, that I began noting a problem. At first, it was easy to blame him: his tendency to end up in unanticipated airports had rubbed off our own joint travel. But then, it became clear that my worst problem –- the dreaded canceled flight -– occurred when I was flying alone.

Which is why I blame sports.

(A normal person may pause here, and point out that the world of airline travel has changed significantly since 2001, and with the current economy and the price of fuel, everyone, everywhere is statistically more likely to experience delays in airline travel. But it’s hot, it’s approaching midnight, and I’m doubting that our flight will ever stop taxiing around the Atlanta airport. In this mindset, my admittedly egocentric sports theories make sense.)

I’ve always believed the universe was about cosmic balance, never more so than when speaking about my sports affiliations. Good karma and bad karma much remain equal, and I am obviously paying for my Patriots Super Bowls, my Red Sox World Series wins, and even my shiny new Celtics NBA title with a burst of particularly rotten travel luck.

I feel like I should apologize to the guy sitting next to me who has a three-hour drive before his 9 a.m. job interview tomorrow. But before I can, our plane finally begins to move. The engines grow louder, air finally circulates through the cabin, and we’re propelled forward. I turn around in my seat to see my husband, in the very last row of the airplane, sliding on his earphones and flashing what almost looks like a smile.

As long as we make it home safely, it suddenly seems like a small price to pay.


Originally from Boston, Michelle is a writer, editor, instructor, obsessive sports fan, loud talker, quick laugher, new mom, and chances are, she watches more television than you do. Follow her on Twitter at michellevoneuw

more about michelle von euw


safe or out?
sports media's double standard
by michelle von euw
topic: sports
published: 9.7.05

it's peyton's world
the colts just live in it
by michelle von euw
topic: sports
published: 2.7.07


sandra thompson
8.11.08 @ 7:55a

I think you're onto something. It's only a theory, but then so is evolution.

adam kraemer
8.11.08 @ 12:06p

Hmmm... I'm a Philadelphia fan. How do you explain my having to sleep on the floor in the Atlanta airport earlier this year?

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