USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Sports’

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.

Folk Beliefs

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
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.

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

Rituals, festivals, holidays

USC Trojan Knights Cheer


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  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.

Rituals, festivals, holidays

High School Spirit week


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



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.  


Switching Soccer Shin Guards


Karl is a freshman aerospace engineering major. He spent thirteen years in a traditional boy’s chorus. He is also an avid soccer player


When I played soccer in high school, my team had this tradition of if we were down we would all take one shin guard out and give it to someone else on the team to wear. SO we would all have like each other’s shin guards on instead of our own. I guess it was sorta a way to like bind us together when we were down and inspire us to try to score another goal and win.

Collector’s thoughts:

The informant explains that the exchanging of shin guards was done as a way to promote good luck when the team was down. Traditions like this are common throughouts sports and can be seen in many different sports. Similar to this tradition, baseball players turn their hats inside out when they are down to promote good luck. It is interesting how in sports one wishes for luck when ultimately it is the athlete using their own skills to accomplish a goal.



Rituals, festivals, holidays

Dance Traditions

For dance, like, um, when I was with the company, the night before the show, like, we’d always have sleepovers, and we’d always drink three… three strawberry Fantas each, which is really bad for you, ’cause you’re not supposed to drink soda, obviously, the night before, but we did it anyway, it was just like a good luck thing.



This good-luck tradition reverses something that it supposed to be discouraged and taboo and turns it into a ritual for luck. It shows the dancers’ and teenagers’ in general tendency to bend or break rules. Additionally, because my informant is a highly trained and very talented competitive dancer, it could speak to her and her teammates’ confidence that they will be able to perform their best regardless of drinking soda the night before a performance. The context of this tradition within a sleepover works to build a community and bond with the entire team, since they are spending the whole night before a performance (and presumably the entire day of the performance) with each other and participating in the same rule-breaking rituals.


¿Cómo no te voy a querer? (Soccer song)

¿Cómo no te voy a querer?

¿Cómo no te voy a querer?

Si tu corazón azul es

Y tu piel dorada

Siempre te querré


How am I not going to love you?

How am I not going to love you?

If your heart is blue

And your skin is gold

I’ll always love you



When we lived in Mexico, uh, we used to go to soccer games a lot, like, club games. And, uh… my dad’s favorite team… I guess the whole family, we, like, really liked the same team, they were called Pumas. And, like… there was this song that they would always sing at the, uh, like, the games that was like… [performed the song] Um… because the team’s colors are blue and gold.


Example of performance:




This song shows a loyalty to the team, regardless of the game’s outcome (“I’ll always love you”), and makes the bond between team and fans deeply personal, talking about the heart and the skin. Here, the fans (or the players) come to embody the team’s colors and logo. It is also one of the more positive sports songs, which simply declares one’s love for their team, rather than trying to tear the opposing team down.



For another version of this song, this time performed for the Real Madrid team, see:

“Como No Te Voy a Querer – Nuevo Himno Del Real Madrid.” YouTube, YouTube, 3 June 2014,

(These lyrics read: “¿Cómo no te voy a querer? ¿Cómo no te voy a querer? Si eres campeón de Europa por décima vez.”

Translation: How am I not going to love you? How am I not going to love you? If you are champion of Europe for the tenth time.”)

Rituals, festivals, holidays

Soccer Game Rituals

So in my soccer team, uh, like, before games, we always put our left socks on before our right socks, right? And then, we always, like, put on our left cleats and then our right cleats, but then we tie our right cleats before our left cleats. Oh, and then I always tuck in my shirt.



I guess it’s lucky, kind of. We do it every game, so I can’t really tell if it’s lucky or not. It’s just, like, a ritual that we started and we can’t change it, because then, like, it might turn unlucky or something.



This team-wide pre-game ritual probably helps to build a bond or sense of community within the team, and allows the players to identify with and trust in each other.

Folk Beliefs

No New Waves


My informant is a twenty-five year old USC graduate who splits his time between Los Angeles and his home in La Jolla, CA. The informant is a lab assistant but spends the majority of his free time surfing. It’s both a personal passion and family activity that has taken him all over the world.


“Another one is that you never leave waves to find waves. That was one of the first ones that I learned, my Dad is super, like, intense about it. Basically it means that if you have waves, if you’ve found like, decent conditions, you shouldn’t leave to find something better because you’ll never find it. I don’t know if it’s supposed to be like, philosophical or something, but it’s honestly true. Every time I’m like, ‘oh, these waves suck, let’s go to this beach’ or whatever, the waves totally suck. Like I’m cursed because I couldn’t appreciate what I had. So just, like, stay in the moment. It’s worth it.”


This is another superstition that sheds a light on the spiritual side of surfing. There’s a whole set of beliefs behind the sport and culture. As Doron mentioned, this seems to be equal parts philosophy and superstition. The message is to “stay in the moment” and appreciate what’s in front of you rather than running off to chase something that might be better. Unlike traditional American discourse, this piece of folklore is anti-future; it insists that the surfer lives fully within the present moment and focuses only on what is happening around them.