Superstition is defined as “Belief in supernatural causality: one event leading to the cause of another without any natural process linking the two. It contradicts natural science.” Opposition to it (omens, astrology, religion, witchcraft) was particularly strengthened during the Age of Enlightenment in the 18th century.
And yet, three hundred years later, it is everywhere: in every game; on every bit of grass; on every track; in every sports hall. We all have at least one little habit, one conscious finger-crossing, ‘touch wood’, salt over the shoulder moment which, it is believed, will improve our performance or defend against bad luck.
In US stock car racing, shelled peanuts are almost NEVER sold at an event. “According to 1930s racing lore, peanut shells were always found in the smoldering remnants of a badly wrecked car.” Beware the driver that eats nuts before a race!
Likewise, in Major League baseball, you “DO NOT talk about pitching a no-hitter!” In other words, you’re pitching against the final man with the potential to reduce the opposition team to zero hits across nine innings. Any mention of what COULD happen is anathema, a curse, a total “no-no”. It is like leading 8-0 in table tennis, with the final match player warming up with a huge, mocking and complacent grin on his face.
Cricket has its own superstitions especially when you’re part of the batting side. Always put the left pad on first like Tendulkar. When there is a great partnership at the wicket, DO NOT move seats. In fact, DO NOT get up!
Nick Faldo – winner of six major golfing championships – only cut his fingernails on a Monday, “so as not to affect the balance of his putting grip”. And he certainly DID NOT have lunch with fellow leaders on a Sunday which is common these days.
Table tennis has its peculiarities at local level almost as if Dr Kananga (Live and Let Die) were sat on your front bumper on the way to the match.
Graham Clayborough pats his thigh twice before receiving a serve. He refers to it as a “confidence trigger”. Tim Fields wears his lucky Santa socks no matter what the season. Roger Bertrand cannot play without eating three bananas during match night. If John Barker sees the slightest gap in the court curtains, he HAS TO fasten them. Personally, I HAVE TO flip the ball into my left hand before serving.
Good luck this Friday. Voltaire will be watching.