* * * *
Super Bowl LVI – “56” – is now history. Which means that today there are undoubtedly some LA Ram fans who think their team won because of something they did. On the flip side, there are doubtless some Bengal fans asking, “Why did my team lose? What did I do wrong?”
Which reminds me of the 2017* Super Bowl, when I found myself asking that same question.
Five years ago – in 2017 – I did a post on Super Bowl LI (51). In that game, “some clown named Tom Brady” led the New England Patriots to “the largest comeback in Super Bowl history.” Which is another way of saying my favorite NFL team – in the Super Bowl at that time – blew a 28–3 lead. (“My” Atlanta Falcons led 28–3 with 8:31 left in the third quarter.)
I felt at the time that – needless to say – there were some Patriot fans who thought their team won because of something they did. The flip side back then was that among Falcon fans, some were undoubtedly asking, “Why did they lose? What did I do wrong?” And – I’m a bit embarrassed to say – I was one of the latter. Which brings up the topic of “sports fan superstitions.”
For one example, see Two-thirds of sports fans are superstitious about game days. (The article added, “40% think a family member is bad luck!”) Dated November 2021, the post noted a survey that said “3 in 5 sports fans have blamed themselves following a loss by their favorite sports team.” So if I was being weird back in 2017, I wasn’t the only one.
In that 2017 post, I had my own game-time ritual all set. However, it got messed up by the lady I was dating at the time. The thing is, after many years of aggravation I had decided, “No more watching games on TV showing any team that I care about.” That became a big part of my game-time ritual – for teams I cared about – and it seemed to be “ritually efficacious.” It seemed to help my teams play better, and was way less aggravating for me. In turn, in 2017’s Super Bowl 51, that formula worked out well – for the first two and a half quarters…
We – or at least I – deliberately didn’t watch the game on TV. The lady and I went out to a movie, then to a late dinner, but every once in a while I’d sneak a peek at the game progress. The Falcons were doing unexpectedly well. Then we adjourned to her house, and I suggested we play cards. (To pass “game time.”) Then came my big mistake.
The Falcons had been winning big, but then we decided to stop playing cards and check out the game on TV. Which we did, but then it wasn’t long before the Patriots starting coming back. At that point I suggested – rather strongly – that we turn off the TV and go back to playing cards. But the lady said no, she was “invested.” Then the comeback – or “choke,” to Falcon fans – started in earnest, so I started begging her to turn off the TV and go back to playing cards. (“Bad karma,” or something like that.) She ignored my pleas, and that led ultimately – in the fullness of time – to the Falcons going on to suffer that biggest “choke” in Super Bowl history…
But that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part came when she had the nerve to say, “You don’t seriously believe that us turning off the TV would change the outcome of the game, do you?”
Which eventually led me back to the Battle of Rephidim. That’s where Moses became the first guy to ever say, “It’s only weird if it doesn’t work!” (Like that old Bud Light commercial?) Put another way, that Bible episode – at Exodus 17:8-16 – showed Moses “helping his team win:”
Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up – one on one side, one on the other – so that his hands remained steady till sunset. [E.A.]
In other words, Moses “helped” his team in the same way that many modern sports fans help their teams win. (Mirrored by some fans who feel guilty because of something they didn’t do, or did wrong, or jinxed their team, or otherwise caused their team to lose.)
Which raises the question: Suppose Moses had listened to “logic and reason?” Or suppose his wife had come up the mountain and said to him, “Moses, you look ridiculous. Do you honestly think that holding your hands up like that is going to change the outcome of the battle?”
The short answer? The world as we know it would be much different. If nothing else, had the Amalekites beaten the Children of Israel, world history would be “worse, much worse.” Moses would never have had the chance to write – or at least finish – the first five books of the Bible, that “most influential, most published, most widely read book in the history of the world.”
So one point of all this is that devoted sport-fans love to think that if their team wins, they – the fans – helped out. (Through their rituals, their “lucky shirts” and the like.) But in doing so they aren’t acting any stranger or more weird than Moses did back at the Battle of Rephidim.
Of course there are skeptics. Like Faulty logic: Post hoc, ergo propter hoc « Gotham Skeptic: “It’s a natural tendency for people to make connections between events. ‘When I do this, that happens…’ Primitive people developed superstitions in similar ways.” In doing so, Mr. Snide-remark Skeptic not-so-subtly compared modern fans to “primitive people.” And by extension he compared Moses to those “primitives” as well, most likely because he didn’t know his Bible…
Either way, Moses seems to have used just that kind of “post hoc” logical fallacy at the Battle of Rephidim. “Hmmm. When I hold my hands up, my Israelites start winning the battle. But if I let my hands down, they start losing. Gosh, I wonder what I’ll do?” And as has been noted, “events that occur in succession may well be causally related, but they may also be completely unrelated.” In Moses’ case, I’m glad he didn’t take any chances. I’m glad he went with his gut.
“This works. This doesn’t. I think I’ll go with what works!” (It ain’t brain surgery…)
* * * *
And now, back to that “clown named Tom Brady.”
The good news is that in the fullness of time, he redeemed himself, at least to me. That is, after he broke the hearts of all those Falcon fans in 2017 – including me – I really didn’t like him too much. In fact, I never liked him or the Patriots all that much. The combination of the two – like Steve Spurrier and the Florida Gators* – was just too obnoxious. But then, a miracle…
You see, before moving to the Atlanta area in 2010, I lived in Florida’s Tampa Bay area for some 50 years, starting in 1956. Which means I was a Tampa Bay Buccaneer fan for way longer – since 1976 – than I’ve been a Falcon fan. But after their breakthrough Super Bowl win in 2003, the Bucs suffered a long, 17-year “playoff drought.” They “would not win another playoff game until their second Super Bowl championship season in 2020.*”
And how did that happen? How did that drought end? A big part of it happened in March 2020, when Tom Brady officially signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And then, less than a year later, he led my beloved Buccaneers to their second Super Bowl win, in a 31-9 “butt-kicking of Biblical proportions.” So the good news? “Tom Brady, all is forgiven…”
* * * *
* * * *
The upper image is courtesy of Rephidim – Wikipedia. The full caption: “Moses holding up his arms during the Battle of Rephidim, assisted by Hur and Aaron, in John Everett Millais‘ Victory O Lord! (1871).” Also, this post was gleaned in large part from posts in a companion blog, Moses at Rephidim: “What if?” And Romans 11 – and “What happened to FSU football?” See also – from this blog – On football, Moses and Rephidim.
A note about the 2022 Super Bowl. In a big sense, I didn’t have a dog in that fight. I was kind of hoping the Bengals would win, both because a lot of friends and relatives have them as their favorite teams, and because the &^%$ Rams beat my beloved Tampa Bay Buccaneers. On the other hand, as a Buc fan I can now say, “Well, we lost, but only to the team that went on to win the Super Bowl…”
The “2017” Super Bowl. That game was played on February 5, 2017, to “determine the champion of the National Football League (NFL) for the 2016 season.” In the same way, the Buccaneers capped their championship 2020 season in the Super Bowl played on February 7, 2021.
The “ritual” link is to Superstitions, a sports tradition – The Aggie.
Re: The Falcons suffering that biggest “choke” in Super Bowl history. On the flip side, two “Atlanta area” teams later also redeemed themselves in 2021-22, ending what had also been long “sports droughts.” First, the Atlanta Braves won the World Series for the first time since 1995 on November 2, 2021, then on January 10, 2022, the Georgia Bulldogs football team won the 2021 college football national championship. (Georgia hadn’t won a national championship since 1980.)
The “old Bud Light commercial.” Searching that term got me 455,000 results, See also my October 2015 post, Was Moses the first to say “it’s only weird if it doesn’t work?”
Re: “Jinxing.” The link is to 20 Ways to Successfully Jinx a Sports Team. Among the ways: Forget to wear something lucky, leave a game early, or “talk serious trash.” The writer, from the Cleveland area, said, “I have yet to see any of my favorite teams hoist a championship trophy in my lifetime, and can recall plenty of times when I’ve truly believed to have jinxed one – or all – of them in a loss.”
Re: The Bible as “most influential, the most published, the most widely read book in the history of the world,” see Asimov’s Guide to the Bible (Two Volumes in One), Avenel Books (1981), at page 7.
The quote beginning “Superstition is a large part” referred back to Super Bowl XLVIII, between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos:
Superstition is a large part of a fan’s repertoire these days, especially when the home team is in Super Bowl XLVIII today… Kenny Shisler has similar superstitions. The lifelong Broncos fan said he will wear Broncos gear all week long, but refuses to do so on game day… “Like the Bud Light commercials [say], ‘It’s only weird if it doesn’t work…’”
That is, Super Bowl XLVIII decided the title for the 2013 NFL season. The Seattle Seahawks beat the Denver Broncos 43–8, “the largest margin of victory for an underdog” in Super Bowl history. Also incidentally, the quote itself is from a “Gotham skeptic” article that is “now defunct.” But see also Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc (Logical Fallacy … – Fallacy In Logic.
“Steve Spurrier and the Florida Gators.” I went to law school at Florida State University – UF’s arch rival – and so became an ardent FSU fan and “Gator hater.” Not that I’m biased or anything…
The lower image is courtesy of Tampa Bay Buccaneers Super Bowl – Image Results. With an article, “Super Bowl: Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrate victory as Tom Brady wins seventh title.”
* * * *