I'm not superstitious. I am a little stitious.--Michael Scott, "The Office"
I was born on the 13th of January; unfortunately, it was a Monday, not a Friday like what we have coming in just a couple of days. I say "unfortunately" because, not being all that superstitious, it's always entertaining to watch the friggatriskaidekaphobics (those who fear Friday the 13th) running around like chickens with their heads cut off. I'd say Monday the 13th is far scarier; it is, after all, the beginning of the work week, which in the real (not work-from-home) world means pants.
Y'all know my stance on pants. Next they'll want us to put on shoes.
I asked my Facebook friends about any superstitions they might hold, and among those who answered, most weren't superstitious.
A few related stories of not necessarily their superstitions, but those of people they'd encountered. Friend and colleague Kelly Brant told me: "I once got berated for putting a gambler's hat away wrong. Never place a hat with the head opening side down because your luck might fall out."
That prompted my birthday buddy and friend Sarah Kinsey to share a story of her youth: "I was visiting my grandparents when I was little, around 10. My granddad had company, and all the seats in the living room were taken. I noticed one seat had a cowboy hat on it, so I placed the hat on the floor and took the chair. The hat's owner looked at me and said, 'I almost killed a man for putting my hat on the floor.' I didn't say a word. I got up and put the hat back on the chair and quickly learned to put it brim up. I sat on the floor."
Not being a hat-wearer, I hadn't heard about the correct way to put a hat away, but I vaguely recalled something about putting a hat on a bed. American Cowboy came to the rescue: "One of the most grievous cowboy faux pas you can commit is placing your cowboy hat on a bed. At best, putting a hat on a bed is said to invite mischievous bad luck or foretell an argument; at worst, it's a premonition of injury or death. This superstition has practical roots; back when bathing was a monthly affair, head lice were a common affliction, and placing a hat on a bed was a good way to spread the itchy nuisances. Bad luck, indeed. Placing a hat brimside-down on any surface is also considered inauspicious, as all the good luck will run out of the crown (it also ruins the shape of your hat!)."
Now I'm wondering if lice are the good luck that might run out. Ew.
There are a lot of superstitions in the world of sports. American Cowboy offered up some for rodeo I'd never heard of: If you carry change in your pocket while competing in a rodeo, that will be the only thing you'll win; and don't eat chicken before an event because you are what you eat.
I guess the chicken superstition doesn't carry over to baseball, as Wade Boggs used to eat chicken before every game.
Other superstitions may involve wearing a dirty and/or lucky item of clothing. Serena Williams, for example, reported The New York Times, ties her shoes the exact same way before a match, and reportedly wears the same pair of socks without washing them during a tournament as long as she is winning. Amber Lee of Bleacher Report wrote that Michael Jordan wore his lucky North Carolina shorts under his NBA uniform shorts throughout his career.
Fans also have their rituals. David Kelley of Louann is a huge fan of the Kansas City Chiefs, and regularly goes with friends to the Chiefs' home field. "When tailgating at Arrowhead Stadium, our tailgating crew would always park their cars in the same order, no matter who got there first or last. And as long as the Chiefs were winning, we would do the exact same menu every time."
I know of others who will stay in the same position on the couch during a game if their team is winning, or who won't watch a game if it means their team will win. Others may pull out stinky jerseys to ensure their team wins.
Hey, whatever works. Just keep your stink on the other side of the couch, please.
Not everyone believes themselves to be superstitious, but some will do things others might consider to be that, if just for a laugh. As Cynthia Christie Peven told me, "I was raised in a singularly non-superstitious family. I facetiously knock wood or touch iron, though."
Yeah, me too. But why are superstitions a thing at all? Psychologists say part of the reason is because "superstitions can have a soothing effect, relieving anxiety about the unknown and giving people a sense of control over their lives," according to Medical News Today. Because they can relieve anxiety, superstitions may improve performance, which explains why so many athletes believe in them.
In an uncertain world, according to WebMD, "Wanting more control or certainty is the driving force behind most superstitions." Those rituals give people the sense that they've increased their odds of the desired outcome, which calms them down.
Calm is something that's much needed today, so who are we to judge? Let that tennis player wear those stinky socks. As long as it doesn't hurt anyone. Or mean I have to wear pants.
Assistant Editor Brenda Looper is editor of the Voices page. Read her blog at blooper0223.wordpress.com. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.