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Top Teams Face Curse in Season’s Final Days

House League Finals Tend to Mean Upsets

It’s not quite the Curse of the Bambino that kept the Boston Red Sox from winning the World Series for 86 years, but it just might be enough of a bad luck streak to call it a curse. Since the House Softball League’s creation five years ago, the top-ranked team in the league standings has gone down in inglorious defeat in the postseason tournament — every single time.

“Apparently, there’s a curse on the No. 1 seed in the House league,” said Brian Fields, coach of the current No. 1 team, Potomac Fever — the only undefeated team left in the league this season. “Any time you’re the No. 1 seed, you’ve got the entire league aiming for you. There’s [about] 110 teams in the league this year, and everybody’s gunning for you,” he said.

In the last two years, the top-ranked House league team didn’t even win its first tournament game. In 2008 and 2009, the leading teams DGS and the Dead Presidents both lost their first games. In 2007, Potomac Fever again was first-ranked but lost in the championship game. And in 2006, the Lawn Wranglers were eliminated in the middle of the tournament.

Why is it so hard for the top-ranked team to win?

Well, for starters, the postseason tournament is a lot more serious. Regular season games on the Mall don’t involve umpires calling balls or strikes. Fields notes that Mall softball play involves a lot of joviality and horseplay — such as joking around about who can hit passing tourists with a home run ball.

But “the tournament teams kick it up into extra gear,” Fields said. “Things get a little more serious.”

And then there’s the amorphous nature of most Hill softball teams, whose rosters change game to game. But in the postseason tourney — where a lot more pride is on the line — most teams manage to round up their best players for playoff games.

“As much as the standings and [the ratings percentage index] do a great job taking the results [of] the season and turning them into rankings which are very reflective of a team’s talents, there are a few teams each year who have a tough regular season because of the difficulty in getting people out [to play] each week,” House League Commissioner and DGS coach Anthony Reed said in an e-mail.

According to Reed, it’s the sleeper teams like these — whose best players don’t play every game — that account for some of the postseason bad luck.

“I’d be lying to say if I don’t want to win it this year,” Fields said about the supposed curse. But “any team in the top 15 or 16 has a legitimate chance of winning the tournament.”

Think your team deserves some Roll Call column space? E-mail your softball tips, league gossip and trash talk to byron.tau@gmail.com.

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