(UPDATE: Apparently these positive comments about JUJU RULES are linked to from a Yankee "fan site" called "It is High! It is Far! It is..." While I welcome any/all visitors, I want to make it clear that I do like the book - but I hate the New York Yankees. When Mariano Rivera choked it up in 2002, I dropped to my knees and wept tears of joy. But, Seely's book is fun and worth a look, so read on!)
As a Red Sox fan, I should give this screed by lifelong Yankees fanatic Hart Seely a one-star review on general principles, but I can always watch a replay of Dave Roberts stealing second and remember that I can afford to be the bigger man. And JUJU RULES is a good book about the "karmic rules" that all sports fans follow.
Of course, most sports fans absolutely use the "juju rules" he describes, all of which I'm guilty of. Like "bringing the neg," where you just angrily predict your own team's inevitable defeat. It makes perfect sense to me, but if you're not that invested, you'll be like, "why do you hate your team so much?" Now Seely explains it, so the sports fan doesn't have to - because if I've already given up on the Red Sox, of course they'll win just to spite me! Don't you get it? It's SO obvious!
So - fun gift, and fun read for the obsessive and deluded sports fan. Even those frontrunning Yankees fans who act like heroes because their owners spent a billon dollars for every free agent on the planet (as opposed to the small-market Red Sox, who win with clutch play and smart spending!).
Seely also embedded in Iraq a couple times as a reporter for the Syracuse Post-Standard, in 2005 and 2006. His embedded reports from that era make interesting reading, and it's always fun reading the impressions of other reporters about places I also visited. He coined "Kuwaiting" for the endless waits at the Ali Al Salem air base, and I'm disappointed with myself that term never occured to me (he probably isn't the first to say it, but I'd never seen it before).
Most posts don't stand out more than any other, but they're all interesting in their own way. 2005 and 06 pre-date the era of the "Joint Security Stations" where I spent the majority of my time. Seely stayed on the big FOBs, and the soldiers he embedded with ran missions from there - it made life a little easier and not quite as rugged. On the other hand, I don't think the FOBs were the built-up fortresses they'd become by 2007, so it was never easy at any time.
In JUJU RULES he devotes about a chapter to Iraq - he does get one thing a little wrong. He mentions that Gen. Petraeus ended "presence patrols," when actually the opposite happened. By moving troops into the JSS outposts within city limits, there were no such things as 'presence patrols' because the soldiers were already in the Iraqi cities.
He doesn't connect "juju" to Iraq, but he certainly could have. He mentions a particulary harsh moment on Sept. 11, 2001, when, seeing the burning World Trade Towers he briefly thought "at least there were no Yankees players there." Obviously, that's the sort of irrational thought that anyone has when confronted with something completely beyond rational comprehension....we try to relate it to something we can get our minds around, no matter how nonsensical. It's just how the brain works.
It turns out the daughter of a close friend died in the attack. So he's disgusted with himself for his first thought. It's brave he confronts it, even though it's hardly his fault. I don't remember what I thought at the time, but I'm sure it was something equally out of whack.
In my e-book chapter "Suspicions, After Curfew," I deal a lot with karma, and juju in wartime Iraq, both in 1991 and 2007, and the sorts of irrational deals we make with ourselves or a higher power...it all doesn't amount to anything, and it's just to make us feel better.
At best, it gives us the masquerade of control over wartime events that often occur with unfair randomness. Like when you're watching a baseball game, and your opponent's up to bat, you can think to yourself "eh, he'll probably hit a grand slam and beat us right now," because what are the odds you'd actually be right?
The same is true if you're riding a Humvee and you laugh and joke and say, "yup, today's the day the IEDs going to get us! Any minute now!" Because, again, if you say out loud, what are the odds you'll successfully predict the future?
Related to Seely's brief thought about Yankees players in the World Trade is a story I relate in more detail in "Suspicions, After Curfew": during Desert Storm the Major and I heard a radio report about the Scud missile that landed on a barracks back in Saudi Arabia. The Major said, "I hope it's no North Carolina National Guard guys," since that was his unit.
A few seconds later, he caught himself and said, "well, it was somebody."
He caught himself, true, but it was too late to beat karma. A few days later and it was his job to tell Jackson, one of our teammates, that his brother had died in that attack.
What are the odds?
Your wishes might come true, but it will bring other consequences.
So that's what wartime karma and juju are all about - you're basically begging the only wish that really matters - "please let this go my way."
That "Suspicions, After Curfew" chapter is available as an e-book only. It was originally in my full-length book, but when i flashed back to Desert Storm, it took the focus too much off the present day. And, the writing style is different than the rest of the book and it just didn't fit. I think it's still a good read, though - and it's just $1.99!
Back to the sports juju that Seely deals with...he is a Yankees fan and it's interesting reading about 1986, 2003 and 2004 from the "other side" of the Red Sox, both as a winner and loser. Like I said, I've used all the "juju rules" he describes, whether knowingly or not.
In the ultimate karmic backlash, during Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, I was at a party and with the Sox holding a 5-3 10th inning lead, I called my father to make sure he recorded the World Series celebration so I could savor it in more depth later...we of course know what happened.
In 2004, in the middle of the ninth inning, I made the same call again - so take that, Karma!
Also - while not "juju" related, any sports fan interested in this book would likely be interested in my Amazon e-book about the ticket scalping culture in Boston - TIME TO GO TO WORK: INSIDE BOSTON'S TICKET HUSTLE. Also, just $1.99, so please take a look!