As the Redskins brace for Sunday night’s regular-season-ending, division-winner-deciding NFC East showdown against the dreaded Cowboys, Washington’s most ardent football fans are getting in touch with their inner superstitions.
Who cares whether or not their rituals have truly brought good, metaphysical fortune to the Redskins? (They have not, researchers can assure you.) In the strange calculus of sports fanaticism, shelving those superstitions now — in the midst of a major winning streak — simply does not compute.
So Tyler Duchaine and his family will continue to do push-ups every time the Redskins score — one for each point. “Since we’ve been doing them, the Skins haven’t lost,” said Duchaine, 23, of Alexandria.
Doug McKinney, a Comcast SportsNet producer, will continue to avoid his razor: He hasn’t shaved since the winning streak began in November. “My parents had to warn my family that I was showing up to Christmas with a gnarly beard,” he said.
Johannes Schneider will begin game day with an edible superstition: “We have one of those toasters that imprints the Redskins logo into the bread, and I have to have at least two slices of Redskins toast for breakfast,” he said.
Then, he will put on his lucky Redskins hat and socks and drape the dog in her lucky team jersey. By kickoff, Schneider, 31, a sports management major at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., will be seated in his spot on the left side of the couch, and he will put his rally towel next to him. He will swing it when Washington’s defense is on the field.
“I’m a very superstitious guy,” he said. “I don’t really believe my superstitions have an impact on the outcome. But if we lose and I don’t do something that day? I definitely blame the loss on myself.”
Sound crazy? To Daniel Wann, it just sounds familiar.
Wann is a Murray State University professor who has spent a quarter-century studying the psychology of sport fandom. He has just co-written a major research paper on fan superstitions in which more than 40 percent of the 1,661 people sampled said they had at least one behavior — from movements and vocalizations to how they chew their gum and wear their hats — that they believed had an influence on their favorite team’s performance.
“People say two things about their superstitions,” Wann said. “I know this is silly, but I still think I have to do it. Or, I know this doesn’t matter, but maybe it does matter. It comes down to the fact that they are helpless and just want some kind of control over this thing they care so much about.”