That Voodoo That You Do

October 05, 2008

A RAYS FAN whowisely goes by the message board handle of Unamed [sic] Source confessedrecently to his cyberspace buddies that he wears his wife's garter belt duringTampa Bay games because he believes that helps the team win. It's only naturalto wonder how he first stumbled upon this good-luck charm, but those detailsare 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 ateam can understand his thinking. Who wouldn't go in for a littlecross-dressing to assure an important victory? If there had been a guaranteethat finding their inner female would lift their beloved Yankees into theplayoffs, every Al and Vinny in the Bronx would have watched the games in asundress and Jimmy Choo pumps.

A 2007 AssociatedPress--Ipsos poll found that 20% of American sports fans admit that they dothings in hopes of either improving the fortunes of their favorite teams oraverting a curse on them, which means that 80% forgot about the six straightdays they ate Chinese food because the Lakers were on a winning streak, or thethree hours of cruel and unusual punishment they subjected their bladders to onSunday because bathroom breaks wreck the Steelers' mojo.

As the playoffsapproached, baseball fans leaned heavily on their superstitions. There is anexquisite agony in rooting for a team in crucial games, when the anticipationof a possible championship mingles with the helplessness of being unable toaffect the outcome. Fans will do almost anything to feel that they'recontributing. In September and October, superstition is the religion not somuch of feeble minds, as philosopher Edmund Burke once said, but of desperateones.

With the advent offan blogs, those who can only sit and watch are at least able to share theirirrational rituals in a kind of online group therapy. "After every Cubs winmy sister must text me 'Hey Chicago what do you say,'" writes ChiTownChick, "and I respond with 'Cubs are gonna win today.' I'm just realizingthat I sound crazy." If so, she can keep company at the asylum with AndrewHamm, who blogged that when opening a beer during a Red Sox game, he has to usehis 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'tthe only one who hears the voice.

Scoff at their oddnotions if you like, but do not get between an obsessed fan and hissuperstitious fears. When Matthew Cerrone tempted fate by posting the Mets'magic number on MetsBlog.com in mid-September, some of the site's visitors wereso enraged, you would have thought it was Cerrone himself who had come out ofthe 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 FANTO TAKE IT DOWN!" wrote fightoffyourdemons, who's obviously stillstruggling with his.

Cubs fans, who,let's face it, have a right to be edgy about these things, were equally irkedwhen they saw their third baseman, Aramis Ramirez, gracing the cover of SPORTSILLUSTRATED last week, bringing the supposed SI jinx into play. MDBNIU wrote onbleedcubbieblue.com, "Thanks jackass New York--based editorial board ofSports Illustrated." Sorry about that, MDBNIU. How about we send you afleece and call it even?

But most fanrituals are about bringing good karma rather than warding off bad. "I madea pumpkin pie from scratch yesterday ... and the Brewers won," KLSnowblogged on brewcrewball.com. "I'm going to need a lot more pumpkins."Aromatically speaking, that's far preferable to blogger Andrew Beaton's attemptto stop the Mets' second straight September slide. After watching his team dropconsecutive games to the Nationals, Beaton announced on hotfootblog.com that hewas donning his Mets tube socks, which he said "contain the mystical powerand the ability to give the Mets a win." On Sunday, Milwaukee edged NewYork for the NL wild card, proving that when it comes to crusty talismans, apie trumps a pair of old socks.

And what happenswhen a superstitious fan enters the land of the rational? On the Angels blogHalosHeaven.com, a fan calling himself Northwest asked for advice: Should heagree to his girlfriend's birthday request that he shave off the good-luckplayoff mustache he began growing on the day Los Angeles clinched a berth? Theprevailing sentiment seemed to be, Keep the 'stache, lose the girlfriend."Not to be harsh but she must go!" answered wallispdub1. "Shedoesn't appreciate his level of commitment!"

Of course,Northwest would be foolish to dump his girlfriend so hastily. Especially if sheowns a garter belt.

TALK BACK If you do something to bring good luck to your team, share it atSI.com/pointafter

If finding their inner female would have lifted theYankees into the playoffs, every Al and Vinny in the Bronx would have watchedgames in Jimmy Choo pumps.

ILLUSTRATIONILLUSTRATION BY KEITH WITMER

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)