A RAYS FAN who wisely goes by the message board handle of Unamed [sic] Source confessed recently to his cyberspace buddies that he wears his wife's garter belt during Tampa Bay games because he believes that helps the team win. It's only natural to wonder how he first stumbled upon this good-luck charm, but those details are probably best left between Mr. and Mrs. Source. We're not here to judge. Besides, anyone who has ever become emotionally invested in the success of a team can understand his thinking. Who wouldn't go in for a little cross-dressing to assure an important victory? If there had been a guarantee that finding their inner female would lift their beloved Yankees into the playoffs, every Al and Vinny in the Bronx would have watched the games in a sundress and Jimmy Choo pumps.
A 2007 Associated Press--Ipsos poll found that 20% of American sports fans admit that they do things in hopes of either improving the fortunes of their favorite teams or averting a curse on them, which means that 80% forgot about the six straight days they ate Chinese food because the Lakers were on a winning streak, or the three hours of cruel and unusual punishment they subjected their bladders to on Sunday because bathroom breaks wreck the Steelers' mojo.
As the playoffs approached, baseball fans leaned heavily on their superstitions. There is an exquisite agony in rooting for a team in crucial games, when the anticipation of a possible championship mingles with the helplessness of being unable to affect the outcome. Fans will do almost anything to feel that they're contributing. In September and October, superstition is the religion not so much of feeble minds, as philosopher Edmund Burke once said, but of desperate ones.
With the advent of fan blogs, those who can only sit and watch are at least able to share their irrational rituals in a kind of online group therapy. "After every Cubs win my sister must text me 'Hey Chicago what do you say,'" writes ChiTown Chick, "and I respond with 'Cubs are gonna win today.' I'm just realizing that I sound crazy." If so, she can keep company at the asylum with Andrew Hamm, who blogged that when opening a beer during a Red Sox game, he has to use his talking bottle opener. According to Hamm, as he pops a cold one, it says, "Grand slam! Go crazy, folks! The Red Sox win!" Here's hoping he isn't the only one who hears the voice.
Scoff at their odd notions if you like, but do not get between an obsessed fan and his superstitious fears. When Matthew Cerrone tempted fate by posting the Mets' magic number on MetsBlog.com in mid-September, some of the site's visitors were so enraged, you would have thought it was Cerrone himself who had come out of the bullpen to blow all those leads. "If we lose tonight to friggin [Mike] Hampton, we'll know this is a jinx and YOU WILL HAVE A HOLY DUTY AS A MET FAN TO TAKE IT DOWN!" wrote fightoffyourdemons, who's obviously still struggling with his.
Cubs fans, who, let's face it, have a right to be edgy about these things, were equally irked when they saw their third baseman, Aramis Ramirez, gracing the cover of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED last week, bringing the supposed SI jinx into play. MDBNIU wrote on bleedcubbieblue.com, "Thanks jackass New York--based editorial board of Sports Illustrated." Sorry about that, MDBNIU. How about we send you a fleece and call it even?
But most fan rituals are about bringing good karma rather than warding off bad. "I made a pumpkin pie from scratch yesterday ... and the Brewers won," KLSnow blogged on brewcrewball.com. "I'm going to need a lot more pumpkins." Aromatically speaking, that's far preferable to blogger Andrew Beaton's attempt to stop the Mets' second straight September slide. After watching his team drop consecutive games to the Nationals, Beaton announced on hotfootblog.com that he was donning his Mets tube socks, which he said "contain the mystical power and the ability to give the Mets a win." On Sunday, Milwaukee edged New York for the NL wild card, proving that when it comes to crusty talismans, a pie trumps a pair of old socks.
And what happens when a superstitious fan enters the land of the rational? On the Angels blog HalosHeaven.com, a fan calling himself Northwest asked for advice: Should he agree to his girlfriend's birthday request that he shave off the good-luck playoff mustache he began growing on the day Los Angeles clinched a berth? The prevailing sentiment seemed to be, Keep the 'stache, lose the girlfriend. "Not to be harsh but she must go!" answered wallispdub1. "She doesn't appreciate his level of commitment!"
Northwest would be foolish to dump his girlfriend so hastily. Especially if she
owns a garter belt.