Long-time clients know when I mention the name Yogi Berra in our game breakdown, we have a good likelihood of winning. We often quote his “90 percent of the game is half mental” malapropism. Very often teams are playing two opponents-the guys in the other uniform and a mental whammy.
Several illustrations have applied in recent history The most high profile would be the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs falling prey to billy goat and Bambino curses. Also Florida and Godspicks again cashed in against Georgia in the World’s Largest Cocktail Party. Going with Michigan against John Cooper’s Ohio State teams was free money.
Regular clients know that this is not a case being a hindsight genius. There was no reservations that the Chicago Cubs should have been heavy favorites “on paper” in Games 6 and 7 of the NLCS. They were playing at home with Kerry Wood and Mark Prior on the hill with the 3-2 lead.
With Pedro Martinez on the pitcher’s mound, the Red Sox “on paper” was justified in being a road favorite in Game 7.
One need not believe in Voodoo or witch doctors to subscribe to sports handicapper picks “jinxes”. But regardless of the origin of the alleged hex, one need only to acknowledge that the brain is the most forceful muscle in an athlete’s body.
Natalie Newton is a former athlete and well respected sports psychologist. She articulates, “What you have to realize is that any time you put two losses or errors or mistakes or any negative experiences back to back, then the anticipation turns into expecting a third loss,” Newton eloquently explains a theory that I subscribed to as a handicapper for years. “So if you’ve lost to a same team or same person or had a same similar error occur two times in a row, then the expectation is for it to occur the next time. Some people call it superstition. Whatever you want to call it, that is a natural human expectation.”
The more I hear and read about coaches and players denying a jinx or “curse”, the more I take into account that it becomes increasing inescapable for a team to not bear this mental weight.
Dr. Newtown fluently expresses why we think it is no coincidence that both the Cubs and Red Sox were five outs from a World Series birth before imploding or that Florida again beat a more talented Bulldog team on the last series of their 2003 football contest.
In times of pressure one team’s subconscious reminds them that history tells them they will win, the other team…well this is from a website Bambinocurse.com “If you look at voodoo or Santeria, psychologists will tell you that the curses work because the people truly believe in it. Neurology is full of cases demonstrating the power of our own minds, consciously or unconsciously, over our bodies.”
Sports psychologists and coaches will tell you if a player believes his lucky socks make him perform better, chances are they will. When I read that coaches have found something mechanical that a slumping player had been doing wrong, I realize believing there is a corrected flaw is every bit as effective as there actually being one.