BY WILL BASLER, STAFF WRITER
Players and fans alike have their ways of avoiding bad luck. For fans, it may be sitting in the same spot you were sitting when your team won the big game. It may be wearing the same shirt you wore to work the day your favorite player got drafted. It may be not washing your clothes to avoid ruining your team’s winning streak. Whatever the fans may do, they are putting their faith in a higher power, doing whatever it takes to give their team a slight edge over the opponent. Players do the same thing. However, they may rely on a specific bat to get them that big hit, or wear the socks they wore when they beat their biggest rival. Whatever it may be, their intentions are the same as the fans. They are willing to do whatever it takes to help them win or just have a good game.
Superstitions happen at all levels of sports, from tee ball to the major leagues, and Pop Warner football to the NFL (National Football League).All ages are competitive and always try to find whatever might give them a step above their opponent. They may try a new haircut or wear wristbands in hope of getting that big hit or making a highlight catch. Do many athletes know that there is no direct help from a pair of batting gloves? Sure they do. It has to do with their comfort level. Sometimes it helps them focus. So in the end, these things do end up helping.
Many of the athletes here at McKendree have superstitions. Pierce Borah, the second-baseman on the baseball team who is leading the team in hitting, has a couple of superstitions. “I always wear the same undershirt if we are on a winning streak. If we lose, I switch it up until I find one that works.” Bearcat running back Ryan Herring says he makes sure to keep consistency in what he wears on game day. “I have to have the right socks or gloves. If I’m missing something like that, everything just feels off, and my mind just isn’t focused.” Superstitions can be key to success because they eliminate variables and help athletes focus.
Even the most famous, most talented athletes have superstitions. For example, Michael Jordan, who is widely-accepted as the greatest basketball player ever, wore his game shorts from his college years at North Carolina under his game shorts when he played for the Chicago Bulls. In baseball, stepping on the foul lines all but ruins your team’s chances that day. Mark McGwire, the former record-holding home run hitter for the St. Louis Cardinals, would often talk to his bat, asking “her” to hit a home run for him. Hall of Fame outfielder, Wade Boggs, who played for the Yankees, Red Sox, and Devil Rays, would eat chicken and ONLY chicken on game days. He did this for every game of his 18-year career.
Baseball is perhaps the sport one would think of most when thinking of superstitions, but superstitions are also very prevalent in golf. For instance, the most famous and arguably the best golfer of all time, Tiger Woods, wears a red golf shirt every Sunday during golf tournaments. He has done this because in 1996, when Tiger was just becoming a pro, his mom told him to wear red on the final day of a tournament because it was his “power color.” He ended up winning that tournament because of a great performance on Sunday. He has worn a red shirt on every tournament Sunday since then, and it has paid off; leading to the second-most PGA Tour wins, and the second-most major tournament titles. Every golfer has a lucky shirt or hat. I have a black Titleist-brand golf hat I have worn so much that it is turning gray. Some golfers have a lucky club or they always carry a certain arrangement of coins and tees in a certain pocket of their pants. Fishing, baseball, and golf are all very failure-oriented, and these superstitions are just trying to improve their chances at success.
Superstitions in sports are even portrayed in many movies. 1989s Major League displays many members of the Cleveland Indians worshipping and sacrificing to Jobu, a “baseball god”, in hopes of winning a big playoff game. In The Natural, the main character, the legendary Roy Hobbs, uses a lucky bat he made out of a tree when he was a boy. It was “the key” to hitting home runs for him. Superstitions are very famous around the world of sports, and athletes of all ages put their hopes in these crazy superstitions every day hoping to catch a break.
In the end, sports are the bridge between crazy and sanity. An outsider may see a baseball player doing a crazy hop to avoid the foul line and think, “Wow, what is that guy doing?” Any athlete knows that they don’t want to be a reason their team loses, and they believe that if the foul line gets stepped on, they aren’t going to win, losing all hope before the game even starts. These things may not actually make a difference, but if it makes a difference in the minds and bodies of the coaches and players, they’re going to keep doing them. At the end of the day any athlete will do whatever it takes to achieve victory.