Superstitious minds

Published 2:07 pm Thursday, November 16, 2006

The world of sports is also a world where superstitions reign, for where else do you see in American jobs the employees wear the same underwear or socks for every performance of employment; where folks have to follow strange rituals and cross themselves before doing their job related task and coffee breaks must start exactly at 10:17 or something horrible will happen.

How did these behaviors begin? Don’t think in one day someone planned to act this weird, expecting their home team to win and sure enough, they won. You just can’t plan your personal superstition. They just happen.

What kind of mind does it take to be superstitious? Do you think it’s just dumb and ignorance causing this affect on grown men pulling in millions of dollars? What happened causing them to fall prey to the slave of superstition? Apparently one day, something happened and coincidentally something good occurred. They added two plus two and came out with four and the birth of a superstition is born.

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For example, you walk under a ladder and two minutes latter you stump your toe; or you spill salt and fail to throw it over your left shoulder and the waitress spills your hot soup in your lap; and Lord, forbid that you sweep the dirt out of the house at night and Aunt Bessie dies.

I have said it before; I dare bad luck to come my way as I bravely walk under ladders, open up umbrellas inside and watch out poor kitty that may cross my path. It is the feline in danger. Why — because I will probably be more stupid than superstitious as I talk on my cell phone and the poor black cat pays the price for being unlucky.

Sports legends are not only talented, skilled athletes but are very lucky as well. They would not dare jinxing that which has brought them victory and fame so they participate in these rituals to make them feel like they have done all they can to guarantee success. However, in the face of defeat even after performing all their rituals, their fear continues strong enough to keep them wearing underwear that they can not wash, tying their shoe laces in a certain order and scheduling activities at specific times.

One of the most superstitious athletes is Wade Boggs, a great baseball player who had so many rituals he is known as the most superstitious of all. He had to eat poultry before every game, take 150 ground balls at warm up, and before every bat he would write in the batter box the Hebrew word “Chai” meaning life.

This is not just a professional athlete phenomenon but is also played out in living rooms, sports bars, and stadiums across the world with the average fan. I have seen it in my own family.

Try coming over to watch a Saints game with my family, in years past, you would find my mom wearing some hideous leopard suit, family members wearing special hats, eating special foods, performing special rituals and when things were getting tough grown men were rubbing the head of a redhead for luck. It is madness and it is a normal day in sports.

Whatever the activity you happen to be doing while watching the game and your team does something good, then that must be repeated so the same outcome will happen over and over again. It feels like you personally are causing the good fortune to happen and you feel intimately apart of the game. It is because of you — they win, or is it really?

Thankfully this behavior ends with the final blow of the whistle and does not carry over in to “real” life. Can you see a car salesmen crossing himself before they go out to meet a new customer, a secretary who must make copies wearing the same green blazer, or a teacher who had to stop class at precisely fifteen minutes into it and turn around three times before she could continue. Weird yes, but in sports, just a common practice.

For all of you who live with superstitious behaviors, walking around ladders and throwing salt over your shoulder, you may understand the athlete who has to wear his clothes backwards to cause his team to win. You fear the failure of not doing the behavior and so you do what you must do.

How many of you are guilty of dancing a rain dance to try to force nature to let out some raindrops? The question is does it work? These rituals? What if both sides are doing their stuff? Who wins then? The team with the most superstitious fans?

Is this behavior worth it? First, superstitious people do not harm anything unless they get into sacrificing animals or small children. Second, it takes the edge off the uncertainty out of the game. Third, saves money on washing powder for sacred underwear.

As long as the individual sports player can still find faith in him or herself, who cares what someone writes in the sand or eats before the games. Rituals are in themselves entertaining and my family seems to have a good time with the game and the sacred black statue on the television set, just don’t touch it!

Go Saints!