We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Monday, February 12. 2018
After last weekend's exciting trip to the Super Bowl, I was having some conversations with a good friend about our various superstitions. Invariably, big games include a conversation about how we're going to be managing ourselves, or how we behaved.. I've never hid, nor have I pretended to not have, my superstitions. They are a part of how I enjoy the game.
I told a workmate, prior to leaving, that I was seriously considering not attending since my nieces felt I was a jinx. After all, the team did quite well with me lying on the floor in front of my TV, why change what works? He laughed and said "You're the most rational person I know. I had no idea you were so superstitious. You do know you have no impact on the outcome of the game, right?" I looked at him and said "Maybe I don't. Maybe." Then I smiled and gave him a nod. Of course I have no impact. But I'll never believe I don't.
In 1997, I traveled to Scottsdale with friends to watch Syracuse play Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl. Syracuse took an early lead, relinquished it, and made a strong comeback in the second quarter. Things looked pretty good. I decided to go to the bathroom, and it was all downhill from there. My good friend was with me, and he explained to me my little trip was the problem. Obviously, I had to take care of business before the game starts, and just deal with it after that. Over the years, we've developed a good repertoire of what works and what doesn't. In 2003, when Syracuse won the Men's Basketball National Championship, I was communicating with him every step of the way. No missteps could take place on the part of anyone in our group, and none did.
Some of our other quirks include (depending on the person): not wearing team gear to games, not drinking alcohol, not texting or phoning friends during games (I warn people that I'm going radio silent during big games), not changing a position when the team is doing well, determining who is in the room (or isn't) when the team is playing poorly or well, and a few other items of varying consequence. I know they have absolutely no impact, but it's part of being a fan. Often, my wife will ask "Can I enter?" in the middle of a game, since she's quite familiar with my eccentricities. You have to be careful with this stuff, it's serious business.
Despite all this, at a critical moment, when Tom Brady had helped New England take the lead, my disgust level reached a point and I said "to hell with it" and headed for the men's room, texted a friend and figured that I was used to seeing my team fall apart, so I should accept the fact I don't play a role. The game gods smiled on me at that moment.
It was later, when I was chatting with my good friend, when he pointed out a few things to me. First, he told me it was a bold risk that I'd attended to begin with. On top of that, I wore my gear (as I pointed out, I'm one who never does), and at a critical moment I threw caution to the wind and broke a few more of my rules. Secondly, he said (in the best Little Big Man way) "Sometimes the magic works, sometimes it doesn't. But you knew when to let it just do its thing."
During the 2003 Syracuse championship, I'd shared a term with him - jambe. It's just another word for 'luck' or the 'blessing of the gods'. You always want or need good jambe. He loved the term and our circle of friends now use it regularly. Whose jambe affected the outcome? Trying to align jambe, gain the jambe advantage, out-jambe the opposition (which once included a drive to State College from Syracuse to paint the Nitanny Lion orange). As we chatted this week, I laughed and told him "what's weird is that you're a minister and you're investing yourself in superstitions. I'm hyper-rational and so am I. We're both doing very silly things which run counter to everything we believe." His reply both surprised and enlightened.
It may seem like we shouldn't behave in such childish fashion. But the reality is, as fans, we are children. We are taking joy in the success of our team. It is our superstitions which, as much as we know they don't impact the game, make us part of the game. His view is these superstitions are a way of aligning ourselves with God's will - God doesn't care who wins, only that each player utilize the skills and athleticism He endowed them with to perform at their highest level. We want to see the same thing - a great game, above all else (winning may be our motivation, but seeing an amazing game is always a reward in itself). Our superstitions are our way of living out that desire to see them play well, even if our team loses. We want to be part of the team, and it's these small things that make us feel part of it. From his perspective, while a superstition isn't strictly an acknowledgement of God, it's our desire to want to play a part in His plan, our way of communicating with Him to help make the game as good as possible.
I'm not nearly as religious as he is, but I can appreciate his point of view. Jesus loved children and their innocence. When we reach back to our past and try to re-engage our inner child, we are reconnecting with that innocence, we are pushing it forward and putting portions of our maturity aside for a few hours to enjoy something which otherwise has no great impact on the trajectory of our lives.
One of his most ironic comments was that jambe is something you have to be very close to in order to understand and manage it properly. As he said, sometimes the magic works, sometimes it doesn't. He also pointed out you have to recognize when it makes sense to not play the jambe game, and respect the wishes of the game gods. It's delicate, it's special, and if you're going to do it, you can't expect it to work every time, because you'll simply overdo it. You have to know how to massage it, manage it, and have it work with you. It's not God being your cosmic bell-boy, it's just a game to play to feel like you're part of the bigger picture. If you begin to believe you really are part of the bigger picture, you're breaking the rules. We take this very seriously, even when we really don't.
Both Bud Light and ESPN have done ads riding on the back of fan superstitions. If you're a fan, there's no doubt you have at least one, even if you're not aware of it. So whatever yours are - savor them and I hope they continue to work for you. Or I hope they work when you ignore them. Whatever works, works.
Posted by Bulldog in The Culture, "Culture," Pop Culture and Recreation at 12:40 | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)
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Superstition is not so crazy, it is a bit of left over instinct going way back in our mammalian evolution.
When an animal encounters a situation that turns our badly, it is a survival advantage to avoid that situation in future. Our early ancestors didn't have the ability to logically determine cause and effect .. so this simple, albeit faulty, rule of thumb made them more likely to survive.
It's still with us. Some years ago, I had a automobile radiator hose failure on a winter night, involving a considerable walk in unpleasant conditions. For a long time after I could not pass that spot without a glance at my temperature gage.
I was at the '97 Syracuse v KSU game.
Syracuse side was mostly empty b/c of weather.
Ha! Yes, the weather was bad up there and we were short. I seem to remember hearing that 4-5 planes were grounded.
I, however, was coming from NYC with 4 of my best friends. We partied that evening for New Year's, then headed up to Vegas where I learned how to play craps and won $700. In fact, everyone left Vegas with money and my one friend (who is a very BIG gambler) wound up getting our rooms and 2 meals comp'd for us. I'll never forget him signing for a $10,000 line of credit JUST TO GAMBLE. I looked at him and said he was nuts.
Thing is, he was 35 years old, unmarried, and a Wall Streeter, so he had tons of cash. The rest of us had middle management jobs and families.
When I watched him split cards 5 times and have $3,500 on the table (and lost all of it), I knew I was out of my league. But, true to form, he stayed up late the final night and walked out $4,000 ahead. We made him get into the far back of the Explorer we'd rented because nobody likes being awakened at 6 am when you have a 7 am wake up call.
15 or 20 years ago Joe Queenan published a book called True Believers. It begins with a sentence something like, “You have just begun reading a book by a man who believes that by adjusting the position of a small ceramic turtle on top of his TV set, he can effect the outcome of a baseball game being played 400 miles away.”
It gets better from there. The chapter on Norte Dame fans should be inscribed on the Golden Dome itself.
Queenan also mentions he tried therapy once a week to cure his sports superstitions. After a couple of months he realized it was a waste of time, but he couldn’t quit; every time he went the Phillies won.