This post originally appeared here: http://www.gazettextra.com/weblogs/peace-and-glove/2012/apr/30/superstition/
The title of this blog covers two things. First, it deals with superstitions in baseball but more importantly it was the perfect opportunity to show my partner “The Bullpen” that I know what his all-time favorite song is!
Major-league baseball players are creatures of habit and repetition. Watch reigning NL MVP Ryan Braun tighten his batting gloves between pitches and you’ll know exactly what I mean. One can only imagine the number of “rituals” that go on inside the clubhouse before and after a game. These actions and activities help create a physical and mental comfort zone for the athlete.
Many of these rituals border – and oftentimes cross the line into – superstition. Things have to be just so, or else the player starts to believe that he can’t extend his hitting streak or bust that slump. As rational adults, players know that what they eat, the shirt they wear or the number of times they kick the dirt can’t have any effect on their play. Still, they stick to routine and ritual, just in case. We all remember how long Sam Malone carried the bottle cap from his final beer before getting sober.
Honestly, I don’t blame them. A player who eats a pre-game steak and goes 2-for-3 with a couple RBIs will probably try to “re-create” the magic another day. I would do the same if I ate a certain breakfast and then sold three cars on a Saturday morning. If something gives you a mental edge, ride it for all it’s worth.
What I don’t completely understand, even though I personally take part in such activities, is the way fans believe certain superstitions will help their team. It’s not as if a particular T-shirt can influence a game, but people tend to exploit any advantage, real or perceived, which brings me to my point.
A couple months ago, the soon-to-be Mrs. bought me a nice, lightweight “old-school” Brewers jacket. It was a perfect fit and I was super-stoked for the season to begin so I could flaunt my new gear. With all the warm days in March, I was concerned that opening day would be too warm to justify a coat. That’s a crazy statement for a Wisconsinite to make, but it’s a pretty sweet jacket.
Opening day arrived and it was perfect jacket weather, so without a second thought my new threads were part of the day’s attire. Superstitions aren’t created overnight, but over time, so I didn’t give it much thought when the Crew dropped the opener. That weekend a good friend left town for Easter and offered up his seats at a price I couldn’t pass up, so the soon-to-be Mrs. and I went back for the Sunday game. We rode our bikes to the stadium that day and I again wore the jacket.
The Brewers unfortunately weren’t able to replicate the magic of Easter Sunday 1987 and dropped the rubber match of the three-game series. In 2011 I witnessed 26 Brewers’ victories and just 10 losses (and two of those losses were in Chicago. Actually, there were three in Chicago but I have vowed to forget about the stolen bike and stop blaming Cubs Nation). All of a sudden I’m at 0-2 and the season had hardly begun. It hadn’t yet crossed my mind that I could somehow be responsible.
The Brewers left town a bit downtrodden and headed to the north side of Chicago, where losing streaks go to die. Turn it around they did, as the Crew won the first three of the four-game set. Loyal readers may remember that I posted prior to Game 4 about how the Brewers had never swept a four-game series at Wrigley. Well, they still haven’t. On that post, a commenter pointed out, in a nice way, that “You went to two home games, both lost, now you proclaim a sweep. Let’s hope for everyone’s sake that this is not a sign.”
I didn’t exactly proclaim a sweep as much as relay the info, but that’s when it hit me. “What if this is my fault?” Again, I KNOW there is no rational explanation to an adult thinking he could affect the game, but those are the seeds that get planted and grow into superstitions.
The Brewers returned from their road trip to face the hottest team in baseball, the L.A. Dodgers. My son and I went over for the Wednesday game and that simple comment from the previous week convinced me to leave the new jacket at home. Instead I threw on the Brewers hoodie that I’ve had for more than a decade. You all know the one, because I’m confident most of you all have a similar hoodie in your closet.
The Brewers won that game in the 10th inning by a score of 3-2 on a sacrifice fly by 2011 NL MVP Ryan Braun. Feeling vindicated, I knew I was not a curse. The jacket perhaps was, but it definitely wasn’t me as an individual. Four days later the soon-to-be Mrs. and I loaded up both kids and all four bikes and headed in for a game against the Colorado Rockies. The Brewers knocked the ball around and won by a score of 9-4. The hoodie and I now had won two in a row. We win one more and that’s called a winning streak.
Last Tuesday a group of distinguished doctors and I were in attendance to see the Crew pop four home runs en route to a 9-6 victory. Of course I wore the hoodie and, yes, we now have a three-game winning streak. I will absolutely wear the hoodie to every game I attend until the winning streak ends.
I know players’ superstitions can be viewed as silly, just as I know that silliness is further stretched when fans start doing certain things for luck. I also know I’m not the only one who doesn’t believe in superstitions yet finds myself awash in them. Do any Peace & Glove readers have superstitious rituals when watching, listening to or attending a Brewers game?