USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Sports’
Folk Beliefs
Material

Lucky Socks

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the performer (CB) and I (ZM).

CB: I wore the same pair of socks every volleyball game from junior year and senior year of high school and both years within our like league of ten teams, we beat every other team, or every team and went undefeated, not including playoffs.

ZM: Why did you decide to keep wearing the socks, like what happened?

CB: Because we kept winning.

ZM: Did you wash them?

CB: Yeah, cause that was gross, but, and they smelled, but… They were bright green neon socks.

ZM: Was it just you or did other players…

CB: Just me. Umm, and it’s funny cause, like I’d be in the bathroom and someone would like look under the stall and see my socks and know immediately it was me. Like it got, it got to that point of like popularity.

 

Context: CB and I were having lunch when I noticed he was wearing a volleyball tournament shirt. I asked him if he had any volleyball rituals or lucky socks or anything. This conversation was recorded then.

 

Background: The performer is a sophomore at the University of Southern California. He transferred from California Lutheran University where he played Division III volleyball but did not continue at USC. CB attended a medium-sized public high school in Santa Clarita where he was born and raised.

 

Analysis: This is a pretty common example of a sports ritual. A lot of athletes have stories of a lucky piece of clothing. Some even go to the extent of not washing said pieces of clothing so they don’t lose the lucky powers.

 

Protection
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Cinder swallow

Main piece:

If you run track in Southern Illinois, then you’ve been on a cinder track. Unlike rubber tracks, they’re hard, uneven, and they hurt so badly to fall on. Cinders cut easily, and get caught up in runners’ scrapes when they fall.

Track athletes are very superstitious, right? So this trend caught on – and I really don’t know where it started, of runners swallowing a cinder right before their race. The saying went that “the cinder would keep it all down!”, meaning that a runner wouldn’t cramp up or vomit following their run.

It was also supposed to protect you from falling, but that definitely isn’t real because I fell or dove at like half of my four hundreds and it still hurt.

Context:

Ritual described by Bree Tschosik, born and raised in Decatur, IL.

Background:

Cinder tracks are a common fixture in the rural Midwest due to their economical nature and durability. They never need to be covered or protected. Typically, they are found at public schools and facilities. Better funded, private schools typically have “all-weather” or rubber tracks.

Analysis:

This ritual is unique in that it only need be performed at meets held on a cinder track. Few athletic superstitions are performed inconsistently or with regards for the nature of the field of play.

Customs
Folk Beliefs

Dropping the Baton sports belief

The following interaction illustrates a folk belief relating to a former student-athlete in high-school track & field relating coach/student view that dropping a relay baton during practice will bode ill for the actual race.

 

For convenience, the interviewee has been marked as ‘A’, and the documenter has been marked as ‘Q.’ The interaction proceeded as such:

 

A., I don’t know if this is true for every track and field team, but if you drop the baton like if you were on the relay team and you dropped it any time during the week before the track meets, during practice. Then you’d have to run a mile, because then for sure if you drop the baton during practice then for sure you were gonna drop the baton during the actual race.

 

My coach really believed it, and she would get like severely distraught any time someone dropped the baton, because it was…sacred.

 

I also dropped the baton and had to run a mile.

Actually, I dropped the baton multiple times. People really shame you for that.

Q. You learned all this from your coach?

A. Yeah.

Q. What does it mean to your coach?

A. What does it mean to my coach? It means we’ve just lost.

 

I thought it was just that particular coach, too. But we had 3 different coaches in 4 years when I was there, and all of them were like ‘you drop the baton, you go run a mile.

 

And I’m like, what? There’s no correlation.

I get the whole ‘practice the way you perform’ thing, but I also think that just because you drop the baton during practice that doesn’t mean you’re gonna drop it during the race.

 

The caution surrounding and seemingly arbitrary enforcement of a folk belief on the part of the coaches illustrated here pulls back the deep-seeded roots of those that inhabit the field of sports, in which the beliefs can take a limitless amount of forms.

 

As indicated here, most of them center on the matter of luck and future implications of success/victory/winning, along with their mirror image counterparts. The matter of keeping the baton in one’s hand does not determine whether one will win, but dropping it will certainly determine if the team should lose.

 

The most interesting aspect is the enforcement of the belief from multiple coaches throughout the years who, presumably, would not have colluded with each other for something so trivial. However, such consistency across rotation highlights the strength of certain sports beliefs no matter who or where.

general

Softball Cheers

I interviewed my informant, Vanessa, in the band office lounge. As I prompted her to share any folklore/folk traditions/folk beliefs she knew, she was reminded of the softball cheers she used when she was on her little league team (8-13 year olds). I collected an example from her:

 

“Down by the river (Down by the river),

Took a little walk (Took a little walk),

Met up with the other team (Met up with the other team),

Had a little talk (Had a little talk),

Pushed them in the river! (Pushed them in the river!),

Hung them up to dry (Hung them up to dry),

We will beat you! (We will beat you!),

Any old time! (Any old time!)

Any, any, any, any, any old time! (Any, any, any, any, any old time!)

 

My informant learned this cheer from the older girls on her team: “It’s been passed down for — I don’t know how many years!”

 

She told me this would normally be ‘performed’ by the team members the dugout. They would chant this when one of their team’s players were at bat. This is to distract the fielders of the opposite team. It’s a call and response, so one person says it, and everyone else echos the same thing (The part in parenthesis representing the response of the team members not leading the call).

 

Analysis

I never did softball, but I have heard about softball cheers from many of my other girl friends. From my knowledge, they range from complex (which choreographed movements or dance) to simple call and response (like the example documented here). I believe learning the chants from the older girls brings the section together, and allows a “Big-Little” relationship between the players. It also unifies the team against the other in healthy, competitive spirit.

 

Game
general

Skiing Mt. Rainier in the 1930’s

BACKGROUND:

A man from Saratoga, California recounts the cultural traditions his father took part in, of skiing Mt. Rainier in the 1930’s as a child. According to his retelling, Mt. Rainier was a prime place for skiing among the youth of Pierce County, Washington. The reason not many people chose to ski that mountain, was due to the layer of volcanic ash that would settle on the snow. As kids would ski down the hills, their skis would wear down at a very fast pace. The solution to this: Buy cheap skis, throw them away when they were done.

INTERVIEW:

My interview with my source, S, went as follows:

ME: Were there any specific like games or events that happened up in your part of Washington?

S: There were a few… I think probably the most interesting one would be when my father would tell me about going skiing.

ME: Tell me about that

S: Well this was back in the 1930s. And he and his friends would go skiing on Mt. Rainier except when they went skiing. It was sort of an all day thing. First they would go to the army surplus store and buy the skis and these skis were really cheap. There were nice skis but they were really inexpensive and so they’d get their skis and then they’d hike up Mount Rainier and Mount Rainier as we know now is a volcanic mountain. But back then it was dormant but there was plenty of volcanic pumice and the wind would blow over the snow it would deposit a fine layer of pumice so they’d go up and they’d ski down Mount Rainier and when they get to the bottom their skis or they bought that day were basically sanded on the bottoms because of the pumice on the snow and so they just throw away the skis and the next time they’d go they’d buy another pair at the Army surplus store.

MY THOUGHTS:

I’ve honestly never heard of people skiing on active volcanoes–for obvious reasons. To the children of Pierce County, however, they saw this as an opportunity to have fun with no one around to stop them. Their cultural work around for the volcanic pumice on the surface of the snow is quite interesting. Had it not been for the ease of access to cheap, disposable skis at the time, I doubt this phenomena would have taken place.

general

Pre-Competition Cheer

“Basically, when I was doing cheer, whenever we had a competition we would stand in a circle and put our arms around each other’s shoulders, and then we would rock back and forth and yell “S-T-O-R-M-E-L-I-T-E” because that was our team name. And then we would put our hands in the middle, go up and down five times, and then we’d yell break. If we didn’t do that five times, or if we didn’t spell Storm Elite, we would lose. But if we lost, at least we had done it, so we lost because of something else, not because we didn’t do it.”

Background Information and Context:

The informant’s cheer squad performed this ritual at each competition, right before they stepped on stage. The informant cheered for two years in Wisconsin when she was 15-16 years old. This was a private team that she paid to join, not a school team. They did dance, stunts, and tumbling, but no actual cheering.

Collector’s Notes:

This is definitely not the first time I’ve heard of this pre-competition good luck tradition. It’s a great example of multiplicity and variation. My own high school tennis team did a “Terriers on 3! … 1-2-3! Terriers!” before matches, putting our hands in and breaking just as the informant’s cheer squad did. What I find most interesting about this example is that, although forgoing the cheer would lead to a loss in the eyes of the informant’s squad, doing it and still losing didn’t necessarily take away the validity of the superstition. Pre-competition traditions are often not logical or actually lucky, but, nevertheless, they serve the additional roles of getting the athlete in the right mindset and instilling a sense of team comradery.

Contagious
Folk Beliefs
Magic

Lucky Bracelet

“I had this bracelet that I got from a gas station, and it had a little four-leaf clover, and for some reason – well, I was really young when I did archery, like 10 – I was like, ‘This is good luck, and if I ever don’t compete in it, then I’ll lose,’ and, for some reason, every time before I’d shoot I’d rub it once and them pull my bow back. [The superstition] was so strong. I was like, ‘this is my good luck charm,’ but [the competitions] were small. Well, it was a state competition, but there weren’t that many archers at the time, and so I kept winning – I guess I was good at it but whatever – and I was so convinced. One day I lost it, and I was like, ‘oh my god,’ I was so stressed, and that was that.”

Background Information and Context:

“I guess I picked it up because the four-leaf clover is supposed to be lucky, but it being in the bracelet in my favorite color and being the only one at the store, it felt like fate (she said the word in a mocking tone).” As the informant said above, she bought the bracelet at a gas station while on a road trip, and the ritual of rubbing it was done while competing in archery, just before shooting. I had asked her to share another pre-competition ritual to follow up one about cheerleading that she’d shared in a prior interview.

Collector’s Note:

Athletes and competitors having tokens of good luck is certainly nothing out of the ordinary, but I found it interesting that the informant kept pointing out how illogical the idea was (e.g. by using a mocking tone or adding “for some reason”). Tokens of good luck are so interesting because the power they hold lies largely in the owner’s beliefs and personal associations with the object, and suggesting that the object is mundane can be a huge insult. It is also interesting to note how symbols travel. Although the symbolism of the four-leaf clover comes from folk tradition to which the informant does not have a personal or inherited connection, it has become something of common knowledge.

Folk Beliefs

Baseball Hats at Baseball Games

What is being performed?
JJ: So if it’s late in the game and your team’s losing. You turn your hat, like, inside out and wear
it on top of your head to bring good luck.
AA: What teams do you do this for?
JJ: Well, I’m pretty sure all of baseball does this but you’re only supposed to do it for the team
you want to win.
AA: Have you ever done it?
JJ: Uh, yeah, at almost every game, actually. It’s a pretty big thing.

Why do they know or like this piece? where/who did they learn it from? What does it mean to
them?
AA: Where did you learn this trick?
JJ: I’ve been doing this since I was a kid and watching Red Sox games with my dad.
AA: Do you think it works?
JJ: I mean, I don’t know. But it makes you feel better. You feel like there’s still something you
can do and it’s not over yet.
Context of the performance- where do you perform it? History?
This is usually performed at baseball games or wherever people are watching baseball on TV.
This doesn’t happen in other sports but baseball fans participate.

Reflection
I am not a big baseball fan or big sports fan in general but this is interesting to me. I see this
mostly as a way that baseball fans, who aren’t on the field and have little control over what
happens in the game, get to feel as if they can control the fate of the game. I think it just shows
how serious people are about their sports teams and how much they can identify with a single
team.

Rituals, festivals, holidays

USC Trojan Knights Cheer

S-O-U-T-HERN  C-A-L-I-FORNIA

Southern! Califorrrrnia!

Fight On!

 

Interviewer: What is being performed?

 

Informant: A Cheer by Rafael Souza. The Hammer Drop, one person yells and the others join and spell out Southern California.

 

Interviewer: What is the background information about the performance? Why do you know or like this piece? Where or who did you learn it from?

 

Informant: It is a game day ritual for USC Trojan Knights.

 

Interviewer: What country and what region of that country are you from?

 

Informant: USC Traditions

 

Interviewer: Do you belong to a specific religious or social sub group that tells this story?

 

Informant: Trojan Knights

 

Interviewer: Where did you first hear the story?

 

Informant: When I went to my first game day

 

Interviewer: What do you think the origins of this story might be?

 

Informant: Spirited USC students probably

 

Interviewer: What does it mean to you?

 

Informant: A lot as a new knight

 

Context of the performance- classmate interview

 

Thoughts about the piece- Trojan Knights are a USC service and spirit organization founded in 1921. See  https://www.trojanknights.org/  to learn about other TK traditions including Tommy Watch, Card Stunts and the Victory Bell. As a USC freshman, I don’t know many details about the mysterious TK fraternity type club but appreciate their traditions that enhance school spirit, especially during football season.

general
Rituals, festivals, holidays

High School Spirit week

Informant:

Daniel is a first year analyst at a prominent Manhattan based investment bank. He grew up in Northern California from a predominantly irish background

Piece:

 

My high school took spirit week super seriously and every single person got super hyped for it and dressed up every day. It was awesome. The whole week culminated on thursday nights when we had the annual Rock N Jock tournament which was a game of basketball with modified rules. Each player on the court dressed as a different character and had different limitations and scoring potential. Like the granny had to only shoot underhand but got a 3 points no matter where she shot from. And the traveler could travel all he wanted, but had to carry a small piece of luggage with him and wasn’t allowed to shoot. Scuba diver had to wear a scuba mask, wetsuit, and flippers, but got 5 free throws if he ever got to the line. The most important character of all though was the flamingo who had to hop on one foot whenever he was on the offensive half of the court, but got 7 points if he made any shot, 3 if he hit the rim, and 1 for just hitting the backboard. The game essentially boiled down to boxing out so that the flamingo could take shots and try to get as many points as possible. It was the best part of spirit week for sure.

Collector’s thoughts:

Once again, the idea of multiplicity and variation arises. While the game of basketball has official and standardized rules, this adaptation of the famous game also has its own set of very specific rules and regulations. While this game might not be “official” it represents a great amount to the informant. This game was the essential part in determining the winner of spirit week.  

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