For the fan in enemy territory

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Superstitious validations?

Everyone that follows sports knows of certain habits the fans and players adopt during the season to give them a feeling of an advantage. These are called sports superstitions. It is something that helps to bridge the gap of interaction between players and their fans. There are many stories of superstitions around the world of sports.

Fans will wear the same jersey every football game day or sit in the exact same seat at the stadium and eat the same foods in sequence as the last time they attended just because the team won that day. The oddity of the fan superstition knows no boundaries. It defies logic, tact and even fashion. Take the rally cap for example.

It was popularized by New York Mets fans during the 1985 season and was embraced and used by their players the following season during the World Series. Is it fashionable? Not really. Does it make the fan look good? No. In fact, it makes them look stupid. But that's not the point, is it?

Fans don't care how they look when they are deep within the passions of cheering their teams. They think, in some small way, that it helps encourage their team to dig deeper and find something within them that wasn't there before. Even if they are sitting at home watching it on TV, the belief holds true (like the players will respond from seeing or hearing them from hundreds of miles away).

It's not just fans, though. Just because I wake up on Sunday and wear the same New York Giants t-shirt that I wore last week when the team won, doesn't mean I am alone in that thinking. The players are actually worse. For example, I mentioned the Giants. When they travel to face a team a second time, they stay at the same hotels, stay in the same rooms they did four years before and even eat the same foods.

Case in point. The Giants played the Green Bay Packers last week in the playoffs. The faced them four years before in the playoffs too. They won that game years before and so they figured they must have done something right, so they kept a record of every detail and repeated it last week. What happened? The Giants won again. Coincidence? Maybe, but the argument can be made that these rituals make the players feel comfortable.

Such is the case of the average player. However, some players take these to legendary heights. Take former Yankees and Red Sox player Wade Boggs for example. He would eat chicken before every game. Think about that. Chicken 162 times in six months! Most people don't eat it that much in a year, let alone half of a year.

Former Mets reliever Turk Wendell is another great example. Between every inning, he would leap over the baseline when leaving the mound and precede to the dugout to brush his teeth. He pitched a career total 645.2 innings. That's at least 645 brushes in 552 games in his career. That doesn't count his three times a day either. He must have never seen a dentist.

There are so many other example as well. Just google the term "sports superstitions" and you'll see a wealth of knowledge on the topic. What is more intriguing to me is that these players and fans actually think it helps. There is little argument that it helps the players feel more comfortable. Perhaps this is the same reason that fans do it.

Speaking as one who, admittedly, practices these rituals on game days, I can only speak from my experience and logic. As I shared earlier, I have worn the same Giants t-shirt every game day all season (yes, I wash it). In that time, the Giants went 11-7 when playoff games are tallied into the mix.

What would their record have been had I not done that? Probably 11-7. Does that mean I don't have to wear this shirt today when they are facing San Francisco in the NFC Championship? Probably, but I wouldn't want to chance jinxing them.