I've written a couple of times about how I can be rather superstitious about certain things. See My Own Personal Superstitions and Friday the 13th Part 2 to read more about them. In both of those blogs I mentioned the fact that I always fear a negative outcome of a sporting event based on what the commentators choose to say (and exactly when they choose to say it). This continues to be a problem, and I will probably end up with calluses on my knuckles from having to knock on wood every time it happens. Just the other night I had the opportunity to go out to the movies by myself. When I got in the car to head home after the film I turned on the radio and the Boston Celtics had a one point lead with only about seven seconds left in a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. It seemed like a nail-biter, but I didn't realize until one of the many timeouts taken in the last ten seconds of a close NBA game that it shouldn't have been a nail-biter. Not too much earlier the Celtics had a TWENTY-TWO point lead! They had let it slip away almost completely before sweating out a three-point win, 93-90. Luckily I wasn't listening to the whole game (listening on the radio as opposed to watching on TV because we don't have cable). One of the announcers jokingly said something to the effect: "To all the hundreds of people who just tweeted me, there is no such thing as an announcer jinx." Yeah, right! Does he really believe that? I was happy to hear that I wasn't the only one who believed in the jinx--based on the wave of tweets this particular announcer received for something that I (luckily) didn't hear myself.
From what I've written so far it might seem like I'm only concerned with announcers and commentators jinxing major sporting events. In actuality I feel that anyone can be the cause of something bad happening within a game (wittingly or unwittingly). In fact, the person I'm concerned about most of the time is myself! Obviously I wouldn't purposely do anything to endanger my favorite teams' chance of success, but sometimes it just happens. For a perfect example we only have to go back a few weeks to the last game of the regular season between the New England Patriots and the Buffalo Bills. The Pats were 12-3 and the Bills were 6-9. After starting the season with four straight wins Buffalo had slumped very badly. It seemed like a sure bet that the Patriots would win (even though they had lost to these same Bills early in the season).
I'm not one to wear football jerseys while watching games on TV. It's not that I'm against the idea or don't have any jerseys (I do own a few), it just makes me feel a bit uncomfortable--like I'm guaranteeing a win or something (which of course is not at all what I'm trying to do). For whatever reason it just seems like a bad omen for me to overdo the support for the team in the wardrobe department. But this seemed like a good time to pull one of the jerseys out though. It was the last game of the season. The Patriots had already won 12 games, had won the AFC East, were already in the playoffs, but were still playing for something--if the won they'd have home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Patriots were playing well and the Bills weren't. I pulled out the jersey of one of my all-time favorite Patriots, Troy Brown, and put it on just before the game.
Now I assure you, I do realize just how ridiculous it sounds to say that I thing that something that I do (especially something as minor as my choice of what to wear for a game) could possibly have any effect on the outcome of a game played hundreds of miles away by professional football players who will never even know who the heck I am. Nonetheless, I DO indeed feel that way. I'm sure there are plenty of other people out there who also feel the same way. I sometimes wonder if a win has more to do with the seemingly random actions of a few hundred fans than what the players on the field actually do. Heck, even some professional sports figures are hyper-superstitious themselves. How often do you hear about a player not changing his underwear or wearing the same shirt every day during a winning streak. Remember Wade Boggs with the Boston Red Sox and his habit of eating chicken before EVERY game? Remember Nomar Garciaparra with those same Red Sox and his little fidgeting ritual he'd go through every time he stepped into the batter's box?
So back to the game at hand. Why would I feel like I had any effect on the outcome? Well, let me explain and maybe it won't seem quite so outlandish. The game started and I sat there, feeling just a wee bit uncomfortable in my Troy Brown Jersey. Wouldn't you know that by the end of just the first quarter the Patriots looked horrible and the Bills already had a twenty-one point advantage. Yes, they were up 21-0 in the FIRST quarter! Three possessions, three touchdowns. Well, needless to say, I was just a bit unhappy with the way things were going. I simply had to take my jersey off--not because I was jumping off the bandwagon like a fair weather fan, but because I felt that I had doomed my team to a terrible loss because of my poor choice of clothing. Pretty funny, huh? ...And maybe just a little insane too? Well, check out what happened after I took the jersey off at the end of the first quarter. The Patriots woke up and scored FORTY-NINE unanswered points over the last three quarters to win the game in a blowout 49-21. Did Bill Belichick walk into the locker room after the game and say "Well, thank God that danged Monster Dad guy took off his stupid jersey"? Probably not, but I certainly felt a whole lot better about things after making that decision anyway.
We're hosting a small Super Bowl party tonight, and it's tempting to put on all my Patriots gear and overdo the house decorating, but I just can't bear to do it. Yes, seeing your team in the Super Bowl is a rare and special occurrence (only two out of the 32 NFL teams get to do it each year), and should be celebrated and commemorated. But like they always say, everyone remembers who won the Super Bowl, but no one remembers the runner-up (even if by virtue of losing the Super Bowl they can claim to be the second best team in the entire league). I am nervous enough about this game. I certainly don't want to take any chances on doing something stupid that might cost the team dearly. And, yes, once again, I do realize that saying that itself sounds pretty stupid.
One last superstitious thing about this Super Bowl and superstitions. Sports Illustrated has had a long-standing and well-known history of jinxing players and teams by featuring them on the cover of the magazine (see Sports Cover Cover Jinx at wikipedia for all the gory details). It's amazing just how often this phenomenon had happened. Last week the latest issue of Sports Illustrated arrived at my house with Tom Brady screaming on the cover.
After a moment of panic I realized that I shouldn't have anything to worry about. After all the next issue would hit newsstands well before the Super Bowl. It was a no-brainer that it would have another Super Bowl-themed cover. Since the Patriots (by way of Tom Brady) were featured on last week's cover, this week's was bound to have the Giants on it. Right? Right? Wrong. This week's cover featured the owner of the Patriots, Robert Kraft.
He was supposedly the first NFL owner to be featured on the cover. That is quite an honor. Having the Patriots featured on the cover two weeks in a row is also quite an honor to be sure. But WHY did it have to be these two weeks in a row leading up to the Super Bowl? I get the feeling that Sports Illustrated knows about--and believes--the whole jinx thing and is secretly (or not so secretly) rooting for the New York Giants.
Well, we'll know the results in a few short hours. One team's fans will be jubilantly celebrating while the others will be crushed. How much of that outcome depends on the play on the field and how much depends on what hundreds of thousands of people around the globe do I can't say. All I know is that I won't be taking any chances.