Superstition and the Sports Fan

If you think athletes are superstitious, then you have never watched sports with me.

Rafa Nadal has just won his 9th French Open over Novak Djokovic. This is the first time any tennis player has won a Grand Slam event this number of times. Sampras never did it, neither did McEnroe or Borg.

And it’s because I watched the whole match on mute.

Photo by Miguel Medina/AFP (Yahoo Sports)

I have been a fan of Rafa for some years now. I have actually been a fan of tennis ever since Sampras made a guest appearance on Letterman in the 90s. With Sampras, I was convinced that if I prayed hard enough and stayed focused while watching, he would win. And he did win 14 Grand Slams, so I helped right?

With Rafa, I started to notice that every time I watched his matches, he would lose. This happened in the Rome Masters and the Australian Open finals this year.  But if I changed the channel and then came back, I would see that he’d already won the set or the match.

This year, everyone was favoring Djokovic to win the French Open because he had beaten Rafa in the Rome Masters (which I watched).  I was determined to help Rafa win this time, so I did turn the TV on, then muted it. I was reading my book, playing games on my phone, and doing everything but paying attention to the match. So of course Rafa won!

Non-sports fans laugh at those of us who actually care about how our favorite athletes or teams are doing.  We’re the ones who get invested in their careers and shout ourselves hoarse whether live at the stadium or in the comfort of our homes. We’re the ones with our little rituals designed to contribute to victory.  For the Red Sox and DLSU Green Archers, my favored methods are not listening to pre-game analyses and not surfing the web before their games.

But I have always felt that it’s a good thing to care for something bigger than ourselves, and be a part of a global community of fans. Thanks to cable, I am glad that even if I live halfway around the world from Paris, London or Boston, I still get to watch the action unfold live, at the same time as those who are in Philippe Chatrier, Centre Court or Fenway Park.

So now I will celebrate Rafa’s win, watch the replay and read all the celebratory articles that will come out. And this summer promises to be another rich one for fans, with the World Cup and Wimbledon coming up. I am excited for my teams (Spain and Portugal) and for Rafa, who I hope will carry this French Open momentum into a Wimbledon win.  I just have to remember to keep the TV on mute.