This piece of folklore came about when I was watching a basketball game with my informant, and the player had gotten fouled and was shooting free throws. The commentator said that this shooter was a “phenomenal free throw shooter, one of the best in the NBA”, and that he had made 16 in a row at this point. My informant looked over at me and said, “he just jinxed him”, and the player wound up shooting and missing the free throw attempt. My informant said “I told you so”, and I asked him what he thought the origins of jinxing were.
My informant told me that he has been familiar with the concept for years, in sporting events, and life events in general. “I’ve learned to never try to predict things, saying that things will be good or that something will happen. I’m afraid of jinxing it” he said. When I asked my informant whether or not he really thought that this piece of folklore was, in a sense, real, he said “you never know”. He told me that more often than not, whenever he feels like he has jinxed something, it usually goes wrong.
My informant told me that he wasn’t sure whether it just felt that way, or if there really was a statistical correlation. He says that he is especially sensitive to jinxing in the world of sports. He says that he never outright says that one team will win, or that a certain player will have a good game if he is rooting for them. He said he just wants to “play it safe” so he doesn’t get frustrated afterwards if things go the opposite way.
He says that sometimes he’ll even try to jinx the team or player that he is rooting against, telling somebody that the team he wants to lose is “going to win”, in hopes that it will jinx the other team. A lot of people believe that it doesn’t work that way, he says, but thinks that he may as well try.
I believe that this piece of folk belief likely dates far back in history, as it seems to be common across the globe and a very common belief. I believe that people believe in jinxing because they only really pay attention to when the jinxing actually works. If a person or team gets jinxed one day, and they end up succeeding anyways, I believe that an individual will not pay as much attention to that event. On the other hand, if a jinx goes through and truly works, I believe a person is more likely to say, “I told you so” or “that always happens”.