Lucien Patchwork’s pregame ritual is spitting.
Growing up Canadian, I absorbed hockey culture by osmosis even though it was never really something I was invested in. Jokes were swapped about lucky socks and how little of a difference they must make for how badly they’d stink by the end of a winning streak. Those rituals were never really something I bought into, at the time, but that was well before Blaseball, and well before I became ingrained in a community that utilizes rituals of its own.
I, too, have a pregame ritual. Minutes before a game starts, I close the site, and go do quite literally anything else. For example: sometimes I write essays preemptively, which is perhaps a jinx in and of itself. I have a reputation – all in good humour, of course, but an alarmingly accurate one nonetheless – among the Moist Talkers. If I say we’re doing well, the sim itself will conspire against us, and we will lose. If I watch a game in full, we will lose. I was jokingly asked to simply log off for our championship weekend, which I clearly did not heed, but I checked our score only sporadically. I checked it with a degree of hesitation I recognized as unneeded, as in the end, the sim is simply code and random chance. Yet, the superstition lurked in the back of my mind, and sunk in firmly enough that I closed the site almost immediately after the scores loaded.
So, why is that? Why, as Blaseball fans like to joke, does it seem like the sim is watching? Listening?
Throughout its history, the simulation has had a flair for the dramatic, and perhaps why I in particular am so invested in my own ritual is because of how keenly this has come through this season. On Day 87 of this season, I came back from watching an episode of Jujutsu Kaisen to pass time while the game progressed (heaven forbid I check during) to find out that York Silk had been Incinerated. I thought that I was prepared for the inevitability of player death on our team, as our choice of stadium had made the likelihood of it skyrocket. And I think, realistically, I was ready. Ready for any player other than York, who had been Shelled, torn from his home, and sent up north to process the aftermath. The emotional aspect is all fan-made narrative, of course, but it hit home: York had found a family with the Talkers, and in a largely queer community, found family is a very poignant thing.
And now, our dork was gone. His replacement, with an uncannily fitting pregame ritual, was Lucien Patchwork.
We were intrigued enough by one coincidence that the next caught us almost entirely off guard. Our last two matches of the postseason, Days 98 and 99, pitted us against the Shoe Thieves. One of their players – Esme Ramsey – has the Haunted modification, allowing deceased players to possess them when they step up to the plate, effectively replacing Esme’s stats with their own for the duration of the at-bat. Esme cycled up to bat in the top of the ninth inning, and was possessed by Kennedy Alstott, the second ever Incinerated Talker. They hit a ground out. We were already spinning this as a kind of reassurance for the team, a welcome for York from those already in the Hall, when during the top of the fifth inning of the next game, we saw another possession: Trevino Merritt. Our first Incineration.
They hit a flyout. Reassurance and welcome began to take on a hint of sacrifice. They were sending us to the postseason. This was cemented at the top of the ninth and final inning, when Antonio Wallace, originally of the Thieves, later a Talker, and finally a victim of Ruby Tuesday, stared out from behind Esme’s eyes.
They struck out looking. One last sacrifice, one last push to carry on. We were going to the postseason, and it was no longer about anything so simple as pride or victory. We were doing it for York.
Our first round of the postseason saw us up against the Baltimore Crabs, long-standing forces of nature in the Blaseball community. We beat them three games to zero, cementing our second ever progression to the third round of the Postseason. This came with an imposing hurdle, however: we were up against the Yellowstone Magic, bearers of 0 No Blood, the bane of our pitching rotation. We had only won two of the nine games that we played against them during the regular season. We expected to go down against them, and hard, particularly when they entered the third game of the series up two wins versus our one. It was a Black Hole game. We scored 10 runs and looped, and lost, but weren’t out of the championship yet. We still teetered on the edge, 2-1. And then we won, with Curry Aliciakeys, their most formidable pitcher, on the mound.
And then we won again. We were in the finals for the very first time.
We were staring down the Tacos, making their second of two total playoff appearances, who had their own reason to want the title. Wyatt Quitter, originally of the Tacos, had been reduced to Static on day 99 of the regular season. Quitter was a victim of many firsts: Their name the result of the first Wyatt Masoning, they were first player shelled as a result of weather, first Honey Roasted player to shell an opponent, and the first Receiver to receive the Echo modification borne by the Wyatt Masons of the second Wyatt Masoning (brought forth by the PsychoAcoustics ballpark renovation option). Their fate – while still ultimately unknown – was a tragic one.
We both had reasons to want to win, and good ones at that.
We swept game one, 6-0. Game two saw us in the precarious position of having Bright Zimmerman – an unfortunate Feedback swap with the Pies in the prior season – on the mound. He is our weakest pitcher, and carries with him his own mythos: seemingly, he is impossible to get rid of once he joins your rotation. The Pies had been trying and failing to shake him for twelve seasons prior. Our own attempts to Revoke him at the end of Season 13 failed, much to our chagrin. He has been characterized as a heel, to more of a degree than Tillman really ever was, though for a smaller audience. Tillman we loved to hate, but Bright we simply hate.
[Editor’s Note: Moist Talker fans later realized their wish to wash away Zimmerman, who was Revoked in the Season 14 Elections.]
Again, we expected to lose. Then, we saw the forecast: Flooding. Our element put us “under pressure” per the High Pressure Blessing that we won at the end of the last season, and had propelled us headlong to where we stood now. We dared to hope. This game was closer, but we claimed our second victory, with a final score of 8-5.
While this win carried with it its own sense of irony, it was not in and of itself crucial to the narrative – until we considered the fact that it left our only remaining original Talker pitcher, Greer Lott, to pitch our third playoff game. She is one of only two non-alternate original players remaining on our roster and, we hoped, she would be the one to grant us what had seemed so out of reach for so long: Our first championship title. With Greer on the mound, we claimed it.
With that victory, the sim signed off on one chapter of many, and gave the story of York Silk an end we had hoped for, but were also prepared to write differently. It brought together two teams – Talkers and Fridays – to celebrate one victory. For York. It is moments like these that instill ritual, oral tradition, and in a very bleak game, that sense of hope. It’s why we tend to see the sim as something greater than the sum (math joke intentional) of its parts. We wish for victory in hushed tones, afraid that it will catch wind and deny us. But sometimes it doesn’t, and that arguably tells a more compelling tale for the scarcity of those moments.
In an ever-shifting story, players and fans alike evolve. Rituals too. Maybe next season, I’ll watch a few games. I’ll do it for York.