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Sporting superstitions

November 20, 2013 - Pam Rodgers

By now, most people have probably seen a version of “superstitions” Bud Light commercials. You know the ads that use Stevie Wonder’s song and feature various people talking about the things they do when they watch football to “help” their team win. The tag line “it’s only weird if it doesn't work” is very appropriate.

Most of the time, I don’t take the time to watch commercials at all, but something about these brings a smile to my face every time I see one. It’s probably because I can see a line of truth in my own behavior and not just when it comes to watching football.

I have had a long streak of superstitious behavior when it comes to sports.

One of the biggest examples for me is when I play softball. If I get a hit, I try to use the same bat, tap the plate the same amount of times before the pitch, put my feet in the same position, etc. I’ve been doing this since the second grade, so I don’t even think about it anymore. I will catch myself every so often repeating these actions even now in slow-pitch softball. It's like they say, "old habits die hard."

Softball wasn't the only sport my superstitious personality appeared.

In high school basketball if we won a game, I’d wear the same underclothes the next game. (Washed of course!) If I wore a headband during a game, I would wear the one the next game. If I wore my hair a certain way, I’d try to duplicate it. I’d even try to eat the same breakfast and pack my bag the same way — anything that would give me an advantage.

I was the same way in track, and I carried those throughout both my high school and college careers. I would try several different discuses in warm-ups and whichever flew the furthest, I’d use that in competition. This eventually applied to every event, not just discus but that's where it started for me.

Being a thrower is such a strange thing, well track in general is really. You are part of a team but most events rely on you as an individual. It's the easiest sport superstitions to crop up. I was aware of the smallest details. If I tapped my foot in the back of the ring before my throw, I would make sure to repeat that after a good attempt. If I changed socks right before I threw, I’d make sure to wear the same socks. I would count how many warm-ups I took, if I touched the implement with my foot before picking it up, how many times I'd turn it in my hand before getting the correct grip, the list could go on and on.

The most amusing track example happened in high school. I stole a golf ball from our boy golfers, who would practice their drives at the same time we were practicing discus. We had to share the field. They would sometimes hit the ball far enough to almost hit us. One day was closer than others, but that’s a story for another day. Anyway, I grabbed the golf ball and hid it in my throwing shoes bag. I placed first in shot at the next meet. If I dig those shoes out from the back of my closet, I’m sure the golf ball, along with a few others, will still be in the bag.

Of course all of this “logic” worked in reverse if I struck out, we lost a game, I had a bad throw, etc. When this would happen, I would try to do everything different to “get back on track.” It’s a never-ending mind game you play as an athlete.

Sports are 90 percent mental (or 80 percent if you want to quote "The Little Giants" and not Yogi Berra). We try to control it as much as we can and these silly mental games we play help. We mere humans need something to make us feel like we have control.

These actions of course carry over when I am watching a sporting event on television, just as the commercial suggests. Where I’m sitting, who I’m with and what I’m eating/drinking all cross my mind when preparing for the big game. If I leave the room and a player hits a home run or we score a touchdown, I banish myself to another room until something bad happens and I need to change the luck again.

I don’t care if logic says the outcome doesn’t actually depend on where I am in my house, but these things defy logic. There is a secret code here, and every time something works, it is a victory for everyone. My teams are counting on me to do my part. I will not let them down.


For the record, My favorite is commercial is the “labels out” spot. It claims that “Our proximity to the field creates a parallel connection to the bottle and the ball. The outward facing label simulates a smoother contact surface for the kicker. It's like magic only real.” I giggle every time the fourth friend begrudgingly turns his bottle label out to match his friends and then the crowd erupts into cheers after the kicker makes to goal. Just in case you missed it, I included the link my blog. Enjoy!



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