Many athletes face an enormous amount of tension during a game because they have to play with the knowledge that, in many cases, success hangs by a thread, and luck may have enough influence to cut it or reel it in. Luck is the difference of one millimeter between “out” and “in.” Luck is the chance that the wind won’t push a potential game-tying 45-yard field goal wide right. Luck is also the starting quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts. Players work to perfect themselves for a great deal of time — honing the right placement, timing, and angle — but select athletes turn to something beyond pure skill for assistance. These individuals believe fortune is in their control.
To some, it seems that a mere stroke of luck can influence the outcomes of their matches; therefore, players will do anything to attempt to produce these coveted strokes of luck. Superstitions are essentially quirky, idiosyncratic ploys to manipulate luck and maximize a player’s chances for success; however, these comical (and often absurd) rituals offer personal relief and satisfaction to players prior to big games. Certain acts have lasted for decades; during a bid for a no-hitter or perfect game, a pitcher’s teammates may alienate him in the dugout and leave him to himself. In the National Hockey League, the conference champions’ captains avoided making contact with the trophy presented, believing that doing so would destroy all chances of winning the Stanley Cup Final. Just last year, journalists covered dozens of articles on such displays, wondering why, among other peculiarities, Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher eats cookies before every game and Boston Celtics point guard Jason Terry wears the gym shorts of the opposing team to sleep the night before every game.
There is no decipherable reason behind the typical superstition, and there doesn’t have to be. If a player believes that an action of no relation to the game inadvertently affects the outcome of a play or match, then that’s reason enough. Superstitions may be fallacies and unfounded beliefs, but they are also pervasive and held tightly even in the hearts of many athletes at JP.
When asked about his team’s traditions, Parag Bapna, senior captain of the XC team replied, “Before every major meet, the guys tend to grow out their facial hair, kind of like playoff beards.” Parag did specify, however, that he could not identify a similar female tradition. Kristen Shea, junior captain of the girls’ varsity soccer squad, gave insight into her team’s pre-game ritual. “Before every match, the girls huddle and put their left hands in for a cheer. Our connected left hands, which are closer to our hearts than the right, symbolize the importance we place on every match.” Coach Pisano of the tennis team likes keeping footballs that accidentally land on the tennis courts.
Evidently, some superstitions are done out of blind faith, while others just serve to give meaning to the daily events in one’s life. Nevertheless, superstitions create an undeniable sense of comfort that allows a player to move forward and do what they do best — compete.