rituals in sports

The only reason why your team won the last game was because you wore your lucky hat, and the only way they will win the next game is if you wear your lucky hat again. Is it perchance by magic? Have the gods conspired to make sure your team gets to the playoffs because you wore a particular hat? Of course! It wasn’t just any hat; it was your lucky hat! Rituals in sports are very common, and every fan holds their own superstition.

Superstitious rituals are defined as unusual, repetitive, rigid behavior that is perceived to have a positive effect by the actor, whereas in reality there is no causal link between the behavior and the outcome of an event (Womack, 1992). Do they work? Maybe, but what’s most important about sports rituals is the believer and the positive psychological affects they can have. There is a rich history in terms of people around the globe participating in rituals. All rituals are based in a belief system, since ancient times the majority of superstitions have come from some sort of religion.

This spread to other aspects of life such as birth, sacrifices and life changes. Although rituals in sports do not have a pin-point of origin, it has been prevalent since gladiator times when gladiators were careful to step into the arena with their dominant foot forward, giving us the saying “put your best foot forward”. So it has been recorded that these superstitions have perpetuated and flourished since before creation. It was B. F. Skinner (1948, 1953), who discovered that superstitious behavior can arise through conditioning in an experiment he did with birds.

He fed pigeons at random intervals, and noticed that these pigeons would do exactly what they were doing when they were fed. This suggests that they had created a ritual and thought that every time they would perform a specific action, that they would be rewarded with food. This behavior was hard to unlearn because they were rewarded with food. This could be an explanation for why sports aficionados continue their behavior in specific situations, every time they follow through, their team may win, reinforcing their beliefs. Rituals amongst sports fans have become more prevalent in modern times.

The Budweiser Company has recently rolled-out a new campaign, “the year of the fan”, and it’s all about sports superstitions. “As Stevie Wonder’s 1972 hit plays in the background, one fan rubs his rabbit’s foot for luck. Another places his Bud Light cans in a specific pattern inside his refrigerator. A third wears different-colored socks to the stadium. Finally, we see a couple holding their hands over their eyes when the potentially winning field goal is kicked. When it goes through the uprights, the guy points to himself. That’s right, he’s saying, “I helped make that kick good. The tagline: “It’s only weird if it doesn’t work. ” This perfectly encapsulates sports fans and the impact they truly have over a game. The campaign has been wonderfully put together, and with a tagline of “It’s only weird if it doesn’t work” can speak to sports enthusiasts everywhere. This advertising can be seen as appealing to Langer’s theory of illusion of control (Langer, 1975, 1977; Langer & Roth, 1975). This theory states that people are likely to see themselves as a cause for an outcome, even in instances that they could not possibly have any control.

Ellen Langer explained her findings in terms of confusion between skill and chance situations, people base their judgments of control on “skill cues”. These are features of a situation that are usually associated with games of skill, such as competitiveness, familiarity and individual choice, the perfect example of this is athletic games. Optimism like this can be helpful for the psyche and can help in creating a sense of self-worth in an individual. The complexities of sports rituals and superstitions run deep throughout the world of sports.

Ranging from something as simple as turning a doorknob in your house to wearing an unwashed t-shirt years in a row, to not shaving for an extended period of time. With all of the intricacies that have contributed to sports ceremonies and fallacies (or are they? ), sports can be thought of as more of a religion in a sense. There are beliefs that surround each different feat of athleticism and the rituals that surround them can be looked at as a healthy and positive way of worship that many people can partake in and enjoy.

Sports are an integral part of many people lives and can influence positive motivation, confidence, emotion and focus. Perception in sports can make a difference in performance and self-confidence which may inversely perpetuate rituals as a positive fortification. There will always be naysayers to every positive affect on a person, and as far as sports rituals go, the concern is a sense of over-importance among fans and that self-efficacy can be maladaptive in some circumstances. In a study Whyte et al. showed that participants who significantly increased their commitment to a failing course of action.

Eventually this can have a very negative psychological effect on someone. They can become increasingly aggressive, and may eventually start to negatively judge themselves for not creating the desired outcome. In an ideal world, things like this would not happen, but unfortunately there are some things that people really can’t control. With the application of superstition, all is explainable; we can attribute events and factors such as “the curse of the Bambino,” the “sophomore jinx,” or a player’s unwise decision to wear a jersey with the unlucky number 13 on the back.

These can be represented in what is known in the sports world as the ‘Madden curse’. The Madden curse revolves around a football video game that is known to have different football stars featured on the cover of the video game, and the immediate season following that very same player gets an injury or has an awful season lowering their player statistics. This has happened from 1999 until the present Madden ’13 game. From Barry Sanders in 2000, retiring shortly after training cam,p to the Madden ’11 cover boy Drew Brees, throwing twice as many interceptions following his cover photo on the game.

However negative, the positive superstitions and rituals overshadow all else. LeBron James, known to fans as King James, has an elaborate pre-game routine known as “the Ritual”. The most visually prominent part of the Ritual is when James tosses moisture-absorbing chalk into the air, giving himself a pre-game baptism of willowy white powder. This is a harmless ritual that has helped this famous basketball star claim the title as King James.

Likewise, superstitions such as wearing your lucky hat are harmless and have a positive effect on a person and help create a bond between a fan and their team. Baseball is a game governed by a complex set of unwritten rules, there is perhaps none more sacred than silence. No-hitters are an uncommon sight, and perfect games are even rarer still (only 20 have been thrown so far). So when a pitcher is en route to either of these extraordinary feats, teammates take a vow of silence to not mention the no-hit or perfect game bid for fear of jinxing the pitcher.

An example of this is this past baseball season of the 2012 San Francisco Giants, a pitcher, Matt Cain, pitched a beautiful no-hitter, and although everyone saw what was happening, not even the announcers would mention the history that was being witnessed. Harmless and fun, sports rituals and superstitions are a good thing. A positive outlet for stress and a creative way to feel included. Works Cited Arora, Mohit. “Top 10: Sports Superstitions. ” AskMen. N. p. , n. d. Web. 15 Nov. 2012. Booth, Robert. “Curses, Superstitions And sports. ” ESPN. com. ESPN, 29 Oct. 2009.

Web. 13 Nov. 2012. Damisch, L. “Silly Sports Rituals? Think Again. ” Association for Psychological Science RSS. N. p. , 23 July 2012. Web. 26 Oct. 2012. Gill, N. S. “Ancient Olympics – Games, Ritual and A Warfare. ” About. com Ancient / Classical History. About, n. d. Web. 15 Nov. 2012. Lessa, William. “Ritual : Life Crisis. ” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n. d. Web. 13 Nov. 2012. McCarthy, Mike. “Touchdown: Bud Light Captures Fan Superstitions in New TV Spot. ” Sports Biz USA RSS. Bud Light, 7 Sept. 2012. Web. 12 Nov. 2012. Morrison, Michael. Sports Superstitions. ” Infoplease. com. Infoplease, 2007. Web. 15 Nov. 2012. Schippers, Michae C. , and Paula M. Van Lange. The Psychological Benefits of Superstitious Rituals in Top Sport: A Study Among Top Sportspersons. Suspicious Rituals in Top Sports. N. p. , n. d. Web. 12 Nov. 2012. Wabash, Robert. “The 7 Most Bizarre Sports Rituals in the World By Robert WabashA  [ 91 More Lists ]. ” Ranker. N. p. , n. d. Web. 14 Nov. 2012. Wiley, Ralph. “Strange But True Sports Rituals. ” ESPN. Page 2, n. d. Web. 15 Nov. 2012. <http://espn. go. com/page2/s/wiley/010510. html>.

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