The science behind sports superstitions

Quirks make fans feel like they're in control
Posted at 12:57 PM, Feb 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-05 13:00:41-05

The countdown has ended. Super Bowl Sunday is here.

Whether you’re a Patriots fan, or rooting for the Falcons, you probably have a quirk that does just the right thing to help your team win.

Caroline McKale has a lot of quirks and superstitions. And she’ll need them when her New England Patriots play Sunday night. 

“I can’t stand it, it’s very exciting,” she said.

From replica Super Bowl rings to hats, her fandom matches the intensity of one of her favorite players, Rob Gronkowski (she brings a poster of his head to every game she watches).

Her list of superstitions come game day is long. It starts with wearing Patriots themed gloves. “When we have the ball, I have to be wearing them,” she explained.

But it doesn’t stop there.

“I’m wearing the same jersey with the same jewelry,” she added. “And the same pants, I have a certain pair of flip flops with bling on them.”

The last superstition may be more embarrassing.

“The grey underwear that’s Patriot’s color,” McKale admitted with a laugh. She does wash them between games.

You can bet millions of Falcons fans will break out their lucky shirts Sunday. Or sit in the same spot on the couch where they always do.

So what drives us to take such extreme lengths?

“We want to have a sense that we have some control of a game which we have no control over,” explained Dr. Ali Mandelblatt, a psychologist at Lighthouse Health Group in Jupiter.

She said having some “control” relieves the anxiety we feel when our team is on the field.

Plus she added we have selective memories, choosing to remember good things associated with our superstitions.

“We remember the times when our superstitions were reinforced, rather than negated,” she said.

McKale is too anxious to even ask her magic 8-ball if her Pats will win. But you better believe she’ll be doing her part from 2,000 miles away.

“I don’t know what it is. I know it’s crazy, but it’s fun,” she said.

Mandelblatt admitted she has a superstition or two. She said it makes fans feel like part of the team and that’s ok.

“Enjoy it, it’s the Super Bowl, your team is in it. If these superstitions make you feel better, indulge.”

Good advice for fans of any team.