The Clackamas print. (Oregon City, Oregon) 1989-2019, April 14, 1993, Page 8, Image 8

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    Sports
Pg, 8 The Clackamas Print
Wednesday, April 14. 1993
Lady luck lures
Athletes practice superstitious behavior
by Justin M. Fields
Staff Writer
Did you ever notice that
first-base coaches in professional
baseball always kick first base
before entering thecoach’sbox?
What possible reasoning could
be behind this ritualistic behav­
ior?
According to sports psy­
chologists and professional
coaches, superstitious behavior
can provide an important boost
to an athlete’s confidence. Per­
forming a ritual or routine can
have a calming effect, which
will give the athlete the assur­
ance they need to remain confi­
dent. This can also prevent dis­
tracting or negative thoughts,
leaving them free to concentrate
on the actual competition.
For example, over-confi­
dentsports trivia buffs may boast
that they know everything about
Buffalo Bills’ quarterback, Jim
Kelly. But one thing they may
be surprised to hear is that Kelly
will not even leave the locker
room before a game without first
vomiting. That’s right sports
fans, before losing his third con­
secutive Super Bowl this year,
Kelly first lost his lunch.
Kelly ’ s ritual is unique Only
in its severity. Several other no­
table sports figures and organi­
zations also have sports-related
superstitions. Marvin Johnson,
a three-time heavyweight cham­
pion boxer, never washes dur­
ing the week before a fight. Now'
that superstition really stinks.
Professional athletes are not
the only believers in the ma­
nipulation of fate. At Clackamas,
many student-athletes practice
rituals all season. Cougar pitcher,
Brad Brenneman, is no excep­
tion.
“For luck, I wear the same T-
shirt under my uniform, and I let
my goatee grow, but if I do bad I
shave the goatee," Brenneman
said.
When asked if others on the
baseball team engage in groom­
ing for games, Brenneman re­
plied, “Nobody shaves on game
days.” Nolan Ryan, Hall of Fame
pitcher and reknowned Gillette
spokesperson, was not available
for comment.
But why are athletes in par­
ticular so susceptible to the charms
of “Lady Luck?*’ For some, su­
perstition is based on uncertainty
and fear of the unknown. Ath­
letes have only limited control
over the outcome of their efforts,
so they are dependant on good
fortune to prevent such tragedies
as the bad bounce, the bad call, or
the unexpected injury.
Many athletes find them­
selves practicing pre-game ritu­
als without being aware of it.
Superstitions become spontane­
ous. Take for instance, a player
who combs his hair differently or
whistles a particular tune — then
plays the best game of his life. To
continue that same good luck, he
mustrepeat the same routine. B.F.
Skinner, a reputable American
psychologist, observed the same
behavior among animals. The
behavior of the animals were re­
inforced by the result of their
actions. In other words, if the
magic worked once, it may work
again.
The spontaneous supersti­
tion idea can be seen in Detroit,
where supporters of the Red
Wings professional hockey team
traditionally throw an octopus
on the ice before each game.
The time-honored tradition
dates back to 1923 when the
arena also served as a fish mar­
ket on weekdays. One evening
during a hockey game, a forgot­
ten octopus slid onto the ice
from a nearby packing area.
The Red Wings went on to win
that evening, despite the 8-0
deficit they suffered before the
surprise appearance of the oc­
topus. Instant superstition. Sup­
porters now say that the octo­
pus has special symbolism, and
was always destined to be part
of Red Wing lore. The reason
being, it took eight wins to cap­
ture the Stanley Cup and an
octopus has eight tentacles. It
all makes perfect sense, unless
of course you happen to be the
octopus.
Superstition will always re­
main a big part of sports be­
cause an athlete’s lifestyle
makes him vulnerable to it. Ath­
letes do the same things every
day because important parts of
their lives are ordered, such as
practice. From this type of or­
ganization, little rituals develop
into obsession, and obsession
develops into superstition. So
whether your idea of fortuitous
behavior be vomiting or just
wearing your lucky T-shirt, I’m
sure it will be beneficial. Knock
on wood.
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