Sports tend to have a funny effect on people.
Witness the normally mild-mannered person who turns into a screaming maniac or the uneducated guy who can recite statistics from 10 years ago by memory.
However, the area where sports makes me people turn into absolute weirdos is superstitions. The most intelligent, logical people in the world become obsessed with rituals and luck that they believe will help their team win. It's as if there's some cosmic force at work and if we don't do everything to appease it, we've cost our team the game.
We all do it. I'm not as bad as I used to be, but after games like last night where the Wings lose a close game in OT, I can't help but wonder in the recesses of my brain whether I had something to do with it. Did I not wear the right clothes? Was I in the wrong spot? Was that bathroom break a terrible idea? What can I do to make sure this never happens again.
Many people have different superstitions. The playoff beard is probably the greatest example right now and has taken on a life of its own. Some people wear the same thing every game or make sure to eat the same meal before the game begins.
Me, my superstitions have started and stopped by where I'm sitting to watch the game. During each of the Wings' 4 Stanley Cup runs, I know that the reason they won was because I was in my proper spot. This allowed the universe to fall into complete alignment for a Red Wings victory, and it worked because the Wings kept winning Cups.
Not that each spot was the same for each year, mind you. The Wings would often struggle in the first round of the playoffs, so I would find a new spot to sit, and the next thing I knew the Wings were steamrolling to another Cup. One year it was the couch in my den, the next my broken office chair. If I was sitting somewhere and the Wings scored, I didn't move until the period and/or game was over; if the opponent scored, then I immediately got up and switched places.
I would extend this to my family. During Game 2 of their series against Colorado in 1997, my grandmother was the difference as she had been somewhere else while the Avs were winning and the moment she sat down the Wings started scoring goals. I wouldn't allow her to get up and move until the game was over, a story that is still told around this time of year in my family.
In fact, the running joke has become that if the Red Wings score while someone is in a certain room or sitting in a particular spot, that person is prevented from moving until the game is over. Conversely, in 2008 my neighbor wanted to witness what I looked like as I celebrated a Red Wings Stanley Cup. She entered my house with about 36 seconds left in Game 5, and 2 seconds later Max Talbot scored to tie the game. She has since been barred from being in my house while the Wings are playing.
Deep down I realize that nothing I do has any effect on the game. I'm sure there's a psychological reason why people engage in superstitions, but for me it's simply because I feel like I'm part of the team and want to do my part. When I was playing sports, my biggest fear was being the weak link on the team, and I vowed that I would never be the player that my teammates blamed for a loss.
The other part of why we do it is because it's easier to blame our failure to wear the right shirt (for a very long time I refused to wear anything with the Red Wings logo on it on game days) than to focus on the shortcomings of our team. This year's version of the Red Wings is good but definitely not great, but I'd much rather think that their inability to win last night was because I got up to get a drink during OT, not because they had 5 players with less than a year of experience on the ice at the same time.
So go ahead and put last night's loss on me. I was really thirsty and had a lot of nervous energy, and I felt that getting up to get a drink would take care of both problems. Had I known that it would have led to the game winning goal, I would have done my fan duty and stayed put.