There’s no shortage of wisdom in “Bull Durham”, not just about baseball but also about song lyrics and the way to wear a garter. Crash Davis also talked about one of the cornerstones of sports, superstitions. At one point, Mr. Davis informs Annie Savoy that if a baseball player believes that he’s playing well because of something he’s not doing then that is why he is playing well. Everyone knows not to mess with a streak.
When I was growing up I used to love to hear stories of the superstitions of various players. I’m sure I had my own when I played sports growing up although I can’t think of any of them now. But that doesn’t mean that I’ve given up superstition when it comes to sports. I’m am always on the lookout for the next lucky hat or lucky shirt or lucky place to stand to watch John Terry miss his penalty kick. (Up against the pantry doors.) I am vigilant about the jinx and the reverse jinx. Rationally I know that nothing I do will have any effect on the outcome of a sporting event that I am watching but I won’t tempt fate. An unscientific poll of my sports-watching friends indicates that they feel the same. (Sample poll question: What did you do differently to cause United to lose in Rome? Jerk.)
So why does sports lend itself to these odd behaviors? I don’t have the same beliefs in other parts of my life. I enjoy schadenfreude, but I won’t bet against my team. I’m not sure how much I believe in God, but I am pretty sure that if he exists then he knows when I lose faith in my team, way down deep inside, and I think it may disappoint him. I won’t go so far as to pray for an desired outcome but I won’t discount divine intervention. (For example, I am convinced that God thinks John Terry is knob.)
So why do we believe these things? Athletes can be excused. After all, they are undereducated, overpraised boy-men who are clueless off the field of play. In order to impose order on chaos, they need their rituals. But I don’t need them. I know there’s no power in the universe that can affect the outcomes of sporting events. Still…