USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Sports’
Folk Beliefs
general
Protection
Signs

Track Team Superstition

Context: The informant had been speaking of memories with her track team in high school.

Piece:

Informant: Yeah so, there was this like consp.. I don’t even fucking know… okay so basically my coach said that if you ever like dropped the baton, like the relay baton during track practice that like that for sure you were like you were like… I don’t know something about the relay… and the actual race was gonna get super messed up. And so if you dropped the baton you always got severely punished on the team and one time this girl Maya dropped the baton and then the coach made the whole team run two miles because she like takes it super seriously and apparently that’s the only way to cancel it and uh. The weird thing was that it wasn’t even that if you dropped the baton during practice you were gonna drop the baton during the actual race it was just that something is gonna go wrong like nobody knows what. Usually it was about somebody being injured or like someone going down and have an injury if the baton was dropped in practice.

Collector: Um so did you like…

Informant: So I never dropped the baton before but it was always really scary and I knew the punishment was gonna be something really ridiculous if someone did it um and plus um because of the fact that our coach believe that if your dropped the baton it resulted in someone being injured, everybody would be on edge for the track meet after a practice where someone dropped the baton. So it was kinda like an extra pressure added. So it made it that I was on the relay team freshman year and we never dropped the baton.

Background: The informant, a 19 year old USC student, ran for the track team in high school. This piece reflects the beliefs she shared with her team. This belief also helped push her as an athlete and created a sense of camaraderie within her team.

Analysis: This superstition is a homeopathic superstition, as it follows the “like produces like” ideology. If the baton is dropped (which is considered bad) then a team member will get injured (also considered bad). But once they run laps (which is good for athletic ability) then the predicted injury is reversed (also good). This belief amongst her track team is a piece of shared knowledge that connected the team. This idea provided standards for the team and brought the team together through the common goal of safety. This also is a sort of preventative measure against injury, which is incredibly important for sports. What is particularly interesting is that the coach enforced this shared superstition through punishment. Superstitions typically are an individual choice, but in this case the team felt obligated to do so and almost forced into believing the superstition. This piece shows the power of sharing beliefs with others and how it affects an environment/group of people. It also enforces a core value of American society which is success, and by believing and following through with this superstition, the team is led to success.

general

I got singles in my britches

Text

I got singles in my britches

Yes I do

Yeehah (x2)

I got singles in my britches

and it really really itches

(turn around and scratch butt)

I got singles in my britches

Yes I do

Yeehah

I got doubles in my britches

Yes I do

Yeehah (x2)

I got doubles in my britches

and it really really itches

(turn around and scratch butt)

I got doubles in my britches

Yes I do

Yeehah

I got tipples in my britches

Yes I do

Yeehah (x2)

I got triples in my britches

and it really really itches

(turn around and scratch butt)

I got triples in my britches

Yes I do

Yeehah

I got home runs in my britches

Yes I do

Yeehah (x2)

I got home runs in my britches

and it really really itches

(turn around and scratch butt)

I got home runs in my britches

Yes I do

Yeehah  

 

Background

The informant use to sing this song at her soft ball games. They would use this song as a way to not only boost their own morale, but to also intimidate the other team. The song made her feel proud of herself and proud of her team.

 

Context

The informant goes to college in Southern California and grew up in Newport beach where she attended a nice public school.

 

Thoughts

This song boosted the team’s morale, as the informant said it did, but it also gave them a way of feeling like they were truy apart of a group. It was a way to separate them from the other team. Knowing the song was also a way of separating themselves from people who did not play softball or baseball and may not know the song or even what “singles” or “doubles” mean.

 

Customs
general
Gestures
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Pre-game ritual: Goalies

 

Main Piece

Informant: Before every game starts, when I am in the crease, I’ll tap the right post with the handle of my stick and the left post with the blade end.

Background:  The informant is my brother. He is a senior at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. There he plays goalie for the club hockey team and has been playing at a club level for well over a decade. He first learned of this superstition through his first goalie coach. He has done this act before every game he remembers playing in. For the informant, the act has become less superstition as he has gotten older. Still, the informant continues this ritual as it has become second nature in his mind. The interview took place over the phone and was recorded for transcription.

Context: The informant will do this act around 30 seconds before the game starts. The informant has been a committed teammate and goalie for the better portion of two decades.

Analysis: Sports are ripe with pre-game superstition and rituals, just like this one. Hockey goalies are especially habitual in the pre-game routines. Whether it be tapping the post with their stick, eating a certain meal or throwing up before the game (Yes, that one is true). However, this is not restricted to only hockey or goalies themselves. Players of all positions in all sports have their own specific pre-game rituals. (For a list a list of similar superstitions of professional athletes, please see Jeff Mclane’s 2008 article, For The Eagles, Superstition Is The Way (TCA Regional News)). Specific to this piece, I found the transition from superstitious behavior to second-nature for the informant interesting. While it might have started out as a superstitious pre-game ritual intended to bring good look for the upcoming game, it has since morphed into an acknowledgement of origin for the informant. The informant does not continue this ritual because he feels it will bring him good luck. He does so because he became the goalie he is today through tapping each post. When the informant continues this tradition, he is reminding himself of everything he has been through to get to where he is.

Customs
Folk speech
Game

Nebraska Football Greeting

Background:

            The informant is a 20 year-old white male from San francisco. Our coversation was recorded in the Leavey Library while taking a study break. We begun talking about his background and that of his family. After a while, we made it to the subject of Nebraska and his relationship with his Grandfather. Even though he is not the biggest football fan, he spends a lot of time with his Grandfather discussion Nebraska Football. I asked if the did any special surrounding Nebraska Football and shared with me this folk-greeting.

Main Piece:

“Yeah so we’ll do this thing, it’s pretty funny actually. I have no idea why we do it but whenever I do my grandpa gets super hyped up it’s so funny. The first time I’ll see him, like at the airport or some shit. He’ll see me and yell “Husker”. Like, really really loud. I have to respond with the word “Power” as loud as he does”.

Context:

When I asked the informant where this came from he wasn’t sure. He said it was related to Nebraska Football but could go into further detail. The informant said this folk-greeting started when he was a much younger age. However, the greeting has transcended into the informant’s adult years and has now become common use. The informant stated how Nebraska Football had been the main source of commonality in his relationship with his grandfather.

Analysis:

            I did some background research on this greeting, and it turns out it’s a pre-game chant done by the crowd at Nebraska Football right before the game starts. I find it interesting that the informant had no knowledge of this, despite partaking in the greeting for the better part of 15 years. Chants like this are typical of American Football culture but seeing it translated into a greeting is a development. The informant seemed to equate this greeting with his relationship to his grandfather, and not to Nebraska Football, where the call and response chant originated. In this piece, we see an example of how folk-behavior can evolve to take on a completely different meaning to a different group of people.

Customs
general
Initiations
Musical
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Rugby Traditions and Songs

Description

“One thing that we do in Rugby is called ‘shoot the boot.’ So if a rookie scores their first try, which is just like a goal or the equivalent of an American football touchdown, after the game, they have to fill their cleat or their ‘boot’ with beer and drink it all in one go. The other teammates sing a song that goes like, ‘Why are we waiting, we could be masturbating, drink mother fucker, drink!’ So, yeah, also, in rugby, the team sings a lot of provocative songs after every game. A lot of them are about having sex, drinking, respecting Jesus, that sort of thing. The one song that is like the worst goes like, ‘Shit damn fuck a damn, fuck a damn damn. Some mother fucker just fucked my man,’ something like that. I don’t know the exact lyrics to all of them.”

Context

Having played rugby, I know a lot of other rugby players that are more well versed in the folklore of rugby groups than I am. I sat down with one of them and asked specifically about things I’d been a part of, and the informant very eagerly shared this with me.

Analysis

This is one of the only pieces I collected that I myself have experienced. I have shot the boot, and it is about as terrible as it sounds, but also works as a rite of passage. You aren’t a “real” member of the team until you have participated in this custom, which is very interesting. It also becomes a sort of initiation, as well, and raises the question — can someone still be a rookie if they haven’t scored, but have played for many years? There are some positions in the game that hardly ever score. This piece of folklore had me wondering where it came from, also, and if the sport’s roots in New Zealand and Europe started this, or if it came about when the sport started being played in the United States.

 

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.

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