Whenever I can get my thumb to pop, Mason Plumlee makes his free throws.

Magical Thinking is the belief that one’s ideas, thoughts, wishes, or actions can influence the course of events in the physical world. It’s also the title of a very dark and funny book by Augusten Burroughs.

Admit it. You’ve done it before. You’ve circled the room a certain way because something bad happened the last time you went the other direction, or always eat a certain food before something important happens at work. Maybe you focus on a candle flame, certain you’re making it move in a certain direction, or always drive a certain path to work on Tuesdays. Hell, maybe you just wear the same lucky jersey every time your favorite basketball team plays, convinced that the little bit of extra mojo you’re throwing out into the universe was key to that thrilling victory the very first time you wore it. By the way, that thumb/Plumlee thing is totally untrue. But did you wonder anything about that for a second except “I wonder why it’s so hard to get his thumb to pop?”. Total lie. Sorry about that.

What is true… I’ve been magically thinking I was bad luck for your Denver Nuggets.

Six seasons ago, the Nuggets had just completed their most successful regular season in history, notching 57 wins on the way to a three-seed in that year’s playoffs. Sure, they lost in the first round, lost their award-winning GM and head coach, and had a painful mole removed, but they were still one of the most energetic and entertaining teams that Denver had had on the hardwood in years. Things were going to keep humming, for sure.

Then I started writing for Denver Stiffs.

One of the first things I got to participate in was a roundtable where I expressed my high hopes for the upcoming year. I’ll be damned if a wildly similar roster didn’t finish with 21 less wins the following season, good for a trip to the lottery. I went and bought a lotto ticket in celebration, and promptly won about as much as the Nuggets had that season. Crap. Ah well, next season. Maybe if I bought a few more pieces of team gear and always drank the same beer I had the night of their biggest blowout, everything would improve.

I’d also written a couple of “here’s why the team will turn it all around and make the playoffs” pieces to start that next season. The following year they fell even further, to a 30-52 record, costing the new-ish coach his job, and starting a lengthy turnover in the roster that only then-rookie Gary Harris and then-recent-addition Will Barton still survive. I was starting to take this a little personally. Why did things have to go to hell right when I showed up? I’d long ago dropped the beer… well, that specific type of beer, anyway. I did still ascribe to the idea that my underfunded Nuggets-wear collection was an underlying source of the losses. Clearly, that jersey and banner I’d decided to leave unpurchased had swung a few of those close losses. That part was painfully clear.

The next year brought Coach Michael Malone and center Nikola Jokic, and you’re pretty familiar with where it goes from there. The Nuggets have finished the last three seasons in 10th, 9th, and 9th place, always improving their record, but barely on the outside looking in. Personally, I tried pretty much everything short of surgery and voodoo dolls. I’d written something hopeful to open each season explaining why we’d be in the playoffs THAT year, only to get tantalizingly closer each season, to the point of the last five minutes of last season determining the Nuggets postseason fate. I was in full-on rally hat mode.

This year, I finally let it all go. I was cautiously optimistic coming into the season, and was willing to say so, but kept my preseason rah-rah (primarily) to myself, wore the occasional Nuggets/Stiffs t-shirt when it occurred to me, and just took it all in stride. And shockingly, the team finally turned it around. All of that previous stuff was just going the wrong direction. That was the ticket. I just needed to relax. I was just overstressing it, but RELAXING had made it all finally come around.

Well, that and an insanely talented and synchronous young basketball team and organization. That also played a pretty big part.

I’m not alone in my silly behavior. A sibling of mine has the same number of Colorado Avalanche tattoos as the team has Stanley Cups, and the number is not accidental. I like that model. More transactional. You win, I do something permanent. A grandfather of ours was certain he had the same type of beer every time the Chicago Cubs won. I’m pretty sure Grandpa was right, as “all of their wins” would logically be a subset of having the same beer every time the Cubs played.

You probably have something going, even if you don’t know it. The way you pump your fist after the opponent has to call a time out, the word you expel when Denver seems to have confused turnovers with assists, or even the way you spell out “NUGGETS” in Fritos before eating them for “dinner”. You have your rituals or tokens hiding out there somewhere, and whatever your mojo whipped up this season finally resulted in a trip to the Nuggets Great Beyond. Hallelujah.

As exceptionally covered here on Denver Stiffs, your Denver Nuggets are back in the playoffs. All I know is, this is definitely no longer my fault. My inner Bartman is at peace. Phew. Go Nuggets.

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