I can’t say for certain, but I truly don’t think I’ve ever shaved on the day of a Sooner Football game. It had to have started back in college when I rarely shaved at all and certainly wasn’t going to go through the trouble on a Saturday before a football game. Then, when I started my career and had to shave on a regular basis, I took Saturdays off and justified it with a superstitious rule: No Shaving on Gamedays!
It just so happens that the year I started my professional career was also the same year OU won it’s first football National Championship since 1985. And without a doubt, my not shaving on gamedays was a big factor in that championship. Sure, we had the Heisman runner-up in the QB position. We had Roy Williams, one of the best defensive backs in history, anchoring our defense. And they deserve some credit, I guess. But let’s be honest. A lot of their success was due to my not shaving on the days they had to compete.
I am not a superstitious person. I’ll walk under a ladder, scoff at breaking a mirror (I did that a couple months ago) and even invite a black cat to cross my path. I think supersition is downright silly. But when it comes to sport, I’ll embrace anything that might help my team to victory. If we seem to be doing better when I watch from the kitchen, I stay in the kitchen. If we score when I leave the room, I will try that again when we need another score. Hat on backwards, sideways or on the floor… Sitting on the couch, the ottoman or standing up… Cheering your team to victory includes finding that balance of exactly what one must do to please the gods of sports so they will bless your team with a win.
Believe it or not, the company I founded 13 years ago was even named after a sports superstition. My freshman year of college in 1995, I purchased a brand new OU ballcap. From that point on, I wore that hat to every HOME game I attended in Norman from then until we lost to Oklahoma State in 2001. I took that hat off that day (the luck had run out of it) and never wore it to a game again. In fact, I wouldn’t put it back on my head until we beat Oklahoma State again. But the hat sat on a shelf in my home office for years. It was tattered and torn, dirty and faded. It has never been washed. So when I was trying to come up with a name for the company I was starting, it just made sense to call it Old Hat. It seems like all sports fans have that “old hat” they wear to all the games. The hat contains luck and without it, the team won’t have the edge they need to win.
Superstition is in the Fabric of Sports
Superstition is an integral part of sports. Most of us know it doesn’t affect the outcome of the game, but it just makes it more fun. As an industry, we should be embracing superstition. Encouraging it.
Matt Roberts, Director of Athletics at the College of Charleston, says, “Superstition is in the fabric of sports. It’s just a part of it. And even though it’s proven over a long time that what you wear, what you eat, the routines and everything that you do on the day of a game or day before the game have been as much ineffective as they have been effective, I still do it.”
And it’s not just Matt. I conducted a quick-and-dirty survey recently and asked people if they are superstitious when it comes to sports. Most of the respondents were staff with athletic organizations (so, not the typical fan) and yet the response was overwhelmingly weighted toward superstition. 62% of people stated that they are superstitious when it comes to sports.
Here are a few examples that were sent to me:
@AdamSchemm: yes. Need the same type of pen, same folder of scripts, same driving route to the game & same clothes every game for football.
@MsDesireeAnne My friend Tommy will even change shirts midway through a game if her team is losing to change their luck
@MekaleJackson If I spill food on my red tie before the game, and St. John’s wins, I wear the same dirty red tie every game until we lose
@TUSportsIS Not superstitious unless someone says: overtime, extra innings, perfect game, rain delay… so yes, superstitious lol
What can we do to embrace superstition more?
I’ve worked in collegiate athletics for 16 years. I’ve seen universities play the same song at every 3rd quarter break, do the same pregame rituals and incite the same chants. Until recently, it never really occurred to me fully embrace the idea of superstition, but I think we’re missing out on a golden opportunity to engage with fans on a more personal level.
We work in an irrational industry. Fans pay absurd sums of money for 6 days (or 20 or 62 or whatever) of entertainment per year. They donate money to the athletic department just for the right to buy those tickets. They dress in a single color, sit in the rain and scream chants at the top of their lungs. Their moods for days, weeks, and months can be affected by the actions of a bunch of 20-year-old kids. On top of all of that, these people (often adult, professional men and women) do things like making sure they wear the same unwashed socks to every game.
As an industry, we embrace so much of that irrationality and we benefit from it to a large degree. Why not take it a step farther and embrace the superstition as well? Athletic events are about the experience and about having fun! What would be more fun than being at an event where the team took part in the superstition of their fans?
Here are a few ideas of ways we can do that, though I’m confident that with some thought, there are a lot more things that could be done along these lines:
1. Superstitions Video: A simple video showing various fans and players talking about what they do each week to make sure they contribute to their team’s chance at victory. Fans love being included with student-athletes and appearing on videoboards!
2. The Superstition of the Game: Feature a fan each game and talk about their superstition during a break. Pick something that everyone else in the crowd can take part in as well. For instance, if they always have to wear their rally hat sideways in the ninth inning, try to get the rest of the fans to do so as well.
3. Victory Lunch: If one of your athletes always eats a certain meal the day before the game, publicize it and get your fans to participate as well and share it on social media.
4. No Shaving on Gamedays: I’ve heard of athletes that don’t shave because of their own superstition about it. Hockey beards are one of the best things about hockey. Publicize it and tell your fans that anyone that shows up with facial hair (or leg hair) gets a discount at the concession stand. You could even give away stick-on mustaches to the kids.
5. Superstitions on Twitter: Encourage fans to submit photos or videos of their game day superstitions. They can hashtag the post so that the university can track the posts. The team can then share their favorite posts. Have a game day prize for the winner.
6. Superstitions on Facebook: Have fans submit the photos and videos to the Facebook admin. Then post the photos/videos to the team account have your followers vote on their favorite. The top 10 fans can share the best and encourage their friends to like the page and like the post. This will garner more followers.
7. Superstition Giveaways: Find out if anyone on the team or coaching staff has game day superstitions like wearing red socks on gameday. Then purchase branded red socks and give them out at the game for fans to wear. This can get pricey but you can then control a number of fans participating in the superstition. Bigger scale.
The possibilities are endless with what you could do to embrace superstition because the possibilities of superstitions are endless. There are so many opportunities to bring in sponsors, philanthropies, etc. with this idea and not only increase attendance and fan engagement but also to use our events to create a positive impact on the community.