Merriam-Webster defines superstition as “a sense of fear that causes a person to perform rituals designed to stop Kyrie Irving floaters and pull-up threes from going in during Sixers-Celtics games.” Don’t believe me? Here is proof:
There are plenty of people who think superstitions are entirely irrational. Those people are not only dangerous, but are tempting fate. As a lifelong Sixers fan, I have tangible proof that superstitions are not only real, but require strict adherence to ritualistic practices. To prove this, I’ll tell you a quick story.
It was March 20, 2019 (or as it is now called, “Sixers Beat Celtics Day”). The Celtics were up 69-58 over the Sixers going into halftime. I was sitting on the right side of the sofa (I watch every game in that spot) in my living room. I looked down at my shirt—a wrinkled Julius Irving crewneck I’d worn during every game of last year’s playoffs.
I can’t say for certain what came over me in that moment, but I stood up, walked out of the living room, climbed the staircase to my bedroom, all the while saying, “This will not do anymore” repeatedly. I threw the shirt off, ripped open my dresser drawer, and put on a red Joel Embiid t-shirt. The Sixers had lost to the Celtics in the second round last spring. It was time for a new shirt.
As I walked back downstairs, an unexpected sense of confidence began rushing over me.
When I passed through the kitchen, my mom asked, “Is everything okay?”
“Now it is,” I replied. “I have a new shirt.”
She didn’t respond.
A little over an hour later, I was standing in front of my television, both arms raised to the sky, shouting, “Let’s go! It worked!”
The shirt had worked. Kyrie got blocked, Jimmy hit the baseline dagger, and the Sixers were world conquerors. My mom might have felt that my wardrobe change was irrational, but I knew for certain my halftime maneuver swung the game.
Certainly I wasn’t the only person that felt this way about sports superstitions and game rituals, right? For a Philadelphia fanbase that has endured its share of hardships, there had to be tons of superstitious fans.
I went about looking for these people, and in doing so, compiled a list of five questions I could ask them regarding any potential superstitions they might have. In all, five Sixers fans agreed to participate in this piece and respond to each question.
Question #1 - What are your general thoughts on fan superstition?
Zainab Javed (@zrjaved): Superstition is important! It helps fans get invested in a game in an entirely different emotional level because we know the games rest entirely on our shoulders. You can’t #FireBrettBrown just because my dumbass forgot to follow the ritual down to the T.
Kevin Rice (@TheKevinRice): I think that fans at home have absolutely zero outcome on the game, and all fans should still continue to perform their superstitions because they’re usually fun and cool. Playoff beards are always great, especially when you can’t grow one (I can grow one, but I know @EJF_215 cannot), and the current practice of celibacy until the Sixers win the NBA Finals a.k.a. #NoSexTilBroadStreet is very fun to take part in.
JawnValjawn (@JawnValjawn): Human beings are superstitious by nature. We have been performing rituals in order to prevent bad things from happening since the beginning of time. Players have their own rituals, whether it is wearing specific clothing items or even thanking the deity of their choosing. It makes sense for fans to be superstitious as well.
Emily Anderson (@third_and_girl): I don’t think they matter, and I also think they matter a lot. I don’t know that any ritual can have a 100% success rate. I know me personally, I’m normally like, “Well they didn’t win but it could be so much worse.”
Andrew Patton (@anpatt7): I generally think superstitions are ridiculous, but being emotionally invested in fifteen strangers wearing tank tops and shorts with the city you lived near as a child written on their chest is equally strange.
Question #2 - Elaborate on a few pregame/in-game rituals you go through watching Sixers games.
Kevin: It’s changed a bit this season because I don’t have as much time, but last season while I was at school, I would always make pasta with Alfredo sauce. The one time I switched it up, we lost to the Wizards last February. I don’t even love Alfredo sauce that much, but I kept rocking with it. In all four losses to the Celtics last year I was at work and without my Alfredo sauce. For the 2019 playoffs, I now bathe in Alfredo sauce for good juju. One in-game superstition I have is that if I close my eyes and turn my head when an opposing team puts up a shot, it will never go in. I can’t abuse this power I have, so I only use it when my instincts tell me to.
JawnValjawn: First, I do not eat or drink. My body must be pure of toxins passed on through food. These toxins weigh the body down and prevent your third eye from opening. When you open your third eye, you can transfer your psychic energy to the players so they can perform better. Second, I am completely celibate. Being celibate makes you more powerful, as you are able to concentrate and function better when you’re not worried about sex. Third, I hang onto my malocchio a.k.a. “the evil eye”. You’re supposed to hang the malocchio next to your door, however with your third eye so open, you become vulnerable to psychological warfare from evil demons (Celtics fans), so I keep it on my person. The malocchio was given to me by a Turkish man, and if there is anything the Turks are known for, its good luck. This is why the team kept Furkan Korkmaz on the roster. And last but not least, I do not watch the games. I sit alone in a room with no furniture and no distractions so I can pass on my psychic energy as best I can.
Emily: My main ritual is to go in the same door and get my ticket checked by the same guy every game. I will wait in a longer line for him to scan it. One time I went in another line and the Sixers lost and that solidified it. I was also really thrown off when we got a new usher in our section.
Andrew: My only self imposed rule is that if I miss the start of a game, for some reason, I can only turn the TV on at the start of the second half. Also, if it goes into fouling time in the last minute or two of the game, I’ll immediately turn it off and check the final score like a half hour later.
Zainab: I accidentally wore my very bright, very green Green Lantern underwear inside out for the NFC championship game against Minnesota last year. I hurried up and cleaned it for the Super Bowl, repeated the outfit and wore the underwear normally. The game was pretty close until I went to the bathroom at halftime and switched the underwear inside out. Then the Eagles won the Super Bowl! Because of that, I just wear all of my playoffs game day underwear inside out now. Like, any regular pair will do. Just inside out or they’ll lose. I believe I may be a powerful witch who can affect games like that.
Question #3 - Do you believe your rituals have affected Sixers games?
JawnValjawn: Did you see the score of the last game? You’re welcome.
Emily: I think I logically know that it hasn’t, but I don’t want to tempt fate.
Andrew: Nope. It’s all about managing my sanity.
Zainab: Every time my ritual works, it only further cements my belief that I was blessed by a Schuylkill River naiad. And with that great power comes great responsibility. After all, when I put my clothes on the correct way, the Sixers lose.
Kevin: (Ignore my answer to Question #1) Yes! There have been several times when a good-great shooter has been left wide open and I close my eyes and turn my head, and more times than not, the shot doesn’t go in. The one example I have is Larry Nance Jr almost tipping in the game-winner last March in the fight for the three seed. There’s no way that shot misses unless I have my eyes closed.
Question #4 - Tell one story about your Sixers rituals not working, or one where you feel like they worked
Emily: I don’t really have any stories. It’s more of a “this doesn’t work 100% of the time but why break the habit and tempt fate.”
Andrew: I assumed the recent Bucks game was in the bag and turned that off in the last minute. It did not go as well as I’d hoped.
Zainab: During last year’s playoffs, I wore the exact outfit from Super Bowl night for all of the games. The Sixers fell to Boston in 5 games. So maybe I’m not a witch?
Kevin: During Game 1 of this series, I chugged Alfredo sauce out of a beer bong and they still lost the game (this did not happen).
JawnValjawn: During the first game of the playoffs, I made the mistake of eating. The Sixers lost. For the second game, I did not eat and the Sixers won in blowout fashion. Very easy logic to follow here.
Question #5 - How do you feel like your rituals have fared so far in the 2019 playoffs?
Andrew: I unfortunately watched most of the first Nets game, but I did arrive late to the TV for the second game and got to watch quite a nice second half as a result.
Zainab: This time around, I’m 1/1 on the inside out luck! I forgot it for Game 1 and remembered in time for Game 2. As you can remember, the Sixers put on a historical performance that night.
Kevin: Well, the pants I wore to work for Game 1 have been thrown to the back of my closet and shall never be worn again. I haven’t eaten any Alfredo-based sauces and we’re up 2-1, so maybe I have no effect on the outcome of games (I do).
JawnValjawn: Since it has only been two games, and the first game I mistakenly did not follow one part of the ritual, and the Sixers lost—whereas when I followed my ritual to a T, they won—it’s not hard to see that I am the most powerful human being on the planet and I was a very big part of the Sixers win.
[All questions were answered before Thursday night’s Game 3 victory in Brooklyn]