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Tampa Bay Rays

The Curse of Caroline

A weird thing happened.  Two weeks ago, the Tampa Bay Rays were on top of the world.  They were the cute story of baseball’s first half – even getting a bandwagon all to themselves.  This latest development made me gag, but before I was even done heaving, something had changed.  The Rays seven-game winning streak didn’t just end; it got obliterated.  Tampa Bay limped into the All-Star break like Lieutenant Dan, losing not only seven games in a row – but also the lead in the AL East.  In the middle of this unpredictable slump, I tried to figure out what had changed.  My father had a pretty good suggestion – so let me share a short fable with you.The Song that Started It All

We can almost pinpoint the time that the curse fell on the Tampa Bay Rays.  At approximately 10:57 PM Eastern Time on July 3rd, the vicious spell was cast.

At this time of night – you were probably getting ready for bed, A-Rod was surely sneaking into Madonna’s apartment, and Tropicana Field was rocking.  Literally rocking – so much so that orange juice started pouring onto the field, and it had pulp!  (I hear it helps artificial turf grow faster.)  The Tampa Bay Rays had just swept the Boston Red Sox at home for the second time in 2008, giving the Rays a substantial division lead and reason to celebrate.

And that’s when an evil sound comes over the pulp-filled speakers at The Trop.  It was a love story of sorts, told in song-form.  Okay, that’s a lie – it was the tale of a creepy man who likes to stalk little girls.  What creepy man are we talking about?  Neil Diamond of course!

As the NESN broadcast faded away, you could hear “Sweet Caroline” start to play in the stadium.  What a move by the Rays – they had taken one of Boston’s many illogical traditions, turned it around, and slammed it right back in the city’s face.

A Budding Friendship

Now I’m aware that Neil Diamond is not technically dead yet – but I promise you, the man has a ghost already, and it was awoken when the Rays decided to play that fateful song on that fateful evening.

Why does Neil Diamond have a ghost?  Because like most pop stars who like to stalk little girls and then write songs about it, he sold his soul to the devil a long time ago.

But unlike most people who sell their souls to the devil, Neil didn’t cut off the relationship.  He and Satan actually became quite friendly with one another.  They Facebook-chatted a lot and even stood in line to get the new iPhone together last week.  That gave them a lot of bonding time.

And the funny thing is – when the devil owns your soul, you have a tendency to do what he tells you.  But how could Neil Diamond possibly help Satan?

The Rays of Exorcism

Well since you asked, there’s an important thing you should know about the devil: he hates getting a bad reputation (he still thinks the whole incident in the Garden of Eden was totally overblown).

So it’s probably not a good idea to embarrass Satan in public – but that’s exactly what a certain baseball organization in the state of senior citizens did earlier this year.

Do you have any idea how long it took for Satan to finally get his name on baseball jerseys?  He had to beg Bud Selig for centuries before the commissioner finally let him sponsor a team.  The final agreement was that the devil would get his name on the jerseys of the expansion team in Tampa Bay – as long as he agreed to set up a death match in Hell between Barry Bonds and Curt Schilling (Joe Buck will be broadcasting it live in 2010).

Everything was dandy for a while.  The Devil Rays may not have been any good in baseball terms, but the important thing was that Satan was getting some positive press for the first time in a very long time.

Flash forward 10 years – and with little warning, the Tampa Bay organization essentially released Satan from the team.  Suddenly they wanted to be rays of sunshine instead of rays of the devil – and that left Satan on the outside of his biggest business venture since Microsoft.

To make matters worse, the Tampa Bay Rays blossomed with their new name in the first half of the 2008 season, shocking the baseball world and showing everyone how great things can be when you shed the shadow of Satan.

Needless to say, the devil was a little steamed.

The Tampa Bay Sinners

Now Satan and Neil Diamond are both quite powerful men, but neither one has governance over the game of baseball.  That responsibility lies squarely in the hands of a group of ghosts in tight pants known as the baseball gods.

So the devil picked up Neil Diamond’s soul and dragged it to see the baseball gods.  But with a name like Satan, you really need a good bribe in order to get what you want from the gods.  And fortunately for the devil, the baseball gods are HUGE Neil Diamond fans.  Neil gave them a quick rendition of “America” . . . but they weren’t quite ready to give into the dark side just yet.

That all changed on July 3rd.  Now the baseball gods are obviously Christian (because Christianity is just as American as baseball), so in general they are a forgiving group of spirits.  But there’s one sin that can never be forgiven by the baseball gods: disrespecting the great Neil Diamond.

The moment the Rays started playing “Sweet Caroline” as a form of mockery, they were in trouble.  Tampa Bay had already done plenty to piss off the devil.  (After he got cut out of the team name, Satan had to sell his wicked sweet place on the water and move to Orlando where he found himself surrounded by digusting happy children all day.)  And now on top of that, the Rays had committed the worst possible sin of all – at least in relation to the baseball universe.

So while it seemed like everyone was jumping on Tampa Bay’s bandwagon, the baseball gods were actually jumping off.  The devil had worked his magic again and the Rays were in trouble.

The Tide Turns

Those poor Rays.  They didn’t even have a clue that the baseball gods had turned against them.  The lowly Kansas City Royals came to town after the Red Sox left in tears, and it seemed like things couldn’t get any better for Tampa Bay.

The Rays celebrated National Fireworks Weekend with three straight wins against the Royals.  Then the baseball gods decided it was time to get payback for the Neil Diamond stunt.

Tampa Bay dropped the final game of the Kansas City series in extra innings, but no one thought anything of it.  They were still the hottest team in baseball even though their winning streak was over.

But then came a trip to New York, during which the Rays dropped two more games to the Yankees.  Still though – no big deal, especially because Tampa Bay had four games with the last-place Cleveland Indians before the All-Star Break.

Well, apparently the baseball gods take their Neil Diamond music very seriously.  The Rays got whipped by the Indians all weekend, getting outscored 31-8 in the series and consequently dropping to second place in the division.

One Last Hope

Who knows how long the baseball gods will hold their grudge.  There’s a good chance it will last all year and ruin the Rays amazing season.

Unless of course . . . the rumors are true.  You see, there have been whispers about one left-handed human being who could seize control of the baseball universe and become even more powerful than the baseball gods themselves.

No, I’m not talking about Jesus (he was ambidextrous anyways – everyone knows that).

This savior’s name is David Price.

Price was the first overall pick in last year’s baseball draft, and everyone who has seen him agrees that he could become one of the most dominating pitchers that the game has ever seen.  He’s already cruised through High A and Double A ball this year, and who knows – you might be hearing his name in September if the Rays decide to call him up in an effort to make a push for the playoffs.

And if that does happen, neither Satan nor Neil Diamond will be able to stop the Rays from being “so good, so good.”

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