Sir Francis Bacon remarked that “The root of all superstition is that men observe when a thing hits, but not when it misses.”
Superstitions are a funny thing. The basis of sports psychology suggests that the real value in superstition and ritual is the boost of confidence and the sense of control that they provide an athlete. If you believe that a specific action or behavior will make you perform better, then you probably will perform better.
Plenty of professional athletes have their share of quirks and superstitions. I’ve been thinking about this a lot at the Olympics. You see athletes lining up water bottles or approaching the start line in a certain way, and you know that this is an important part of their routine.
Among the highly superstitious is Sidney Crosby, captain of Team Canada at the Olympics and of the Pittsburgh Penguins who has a long list of superstitions. Starting with wearing #87 for being born on August 7th (8/7) 1987, Crosby’s superstitions are seemingly an integral, yet seamless, part of his game. He famously wears 1 sweat stained hat per season after every practice and game for media interviews. His pre-game meals never change. Crosby has a certain way to handle his sticks off the ice, and a specific way to tape them up, and a precise way to get his skates ready. During pre-game warm ups, Crosby has the same ritual. When the Jumbotron reaches the 5:00 minute mark to the end of warm up, Crosby will always make his way to center ice and re-tie his skates (starting with right one first). It always happens. Does it help? Who knows? But the way he plays, I’d say it doesn’t hurt. Crosby is far from being along in having ritualistic habits. Wayne Gretzky would never get a haircut on the road. Patrick Roy talked to the goal posts. The list goes on…
Realistically, I know that superstitions are not grounded in fact or reality. However, with that being said, I’ll admit that I have my moments. I don’t believe that stepping on a crack will break my mother’s back. BUT… I’ve been wearing my lucky Canada fleece sweater for all the Olympic hockey games once the round robin was over. Does it work or have any impact? Probably not. But all the same, the Canadian women’s hockey team won the gold in overtime (and only started scoring once I put on the sweater) and Canada won the semi-finals over the Americans in men’s hockey while I was wearing the sweater. So will I be wearing my lucky sweater come Sunday morning when Canada plays Sweden for the gold in men’s hockey? You bet I will be. I’m sure Crosby will be sticking to his routine too.