Popular Science

Why sports fans cling to superstiti­ons


WITCHES WOULD FEEL right at home within the fan base of a sports team, where curses, hexes, and charms abound. As if compelled by magic, superstiti­ous diehards have worn inside-out goodluck hats called rally caps, planted team memorabili­a on Mount Everest’s peak, and displayed butchered goats on stadium grounds—all because they believe it’ll help their treasured team win. These rituals don’t influence the outcome of the match, so why do they exist?

Such actions often arise from a place of helplessne­ss, according to Murray State University sports psychologi­st Daniel Wann. Superstiti­ous practices put fans’ minds at ease because they make them feel as if they have some control over the game. There’s also a bit of peer pressure involved. Studies show that being part of a team’s hype squad offers a sense of belonging and togetherne­ss, which may be behind cheerers’ decisions to take part in unusual routines. Plus, when a team wins a nail-biter, you can’t help but wonder if your rally cap had something to do with it.

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