Folk Ritual/Superstition – Los Angeles

Softball Clothes Ritual

While on the softball team, it was customary that, after the team had won a few games, for each individual player to dress in the same clothes and in the same way each game.  We had to wear the same uniform, socks, shoes, underwear, and sports bras (of course all these things could be washed for each game).  For example, I (the informant), would put on underwear and bra first, then yellow compression or sliding shorts, and then put red mesh shorts on over those shorts.  Then I would put on my jersey, right sock first, then left sock.  The right sock was red, “red for right,” and the left sock was yellow, “lellow for left.”  Then I would put my sliders on, right then left.  Then shoes, right then left.  Then she had to braid her hair in pigtails and put one red ribbon and one yellow ribbon on each pigtail.

The informant did this age ten to twelve before softball games.  She believes it to be superstition and thought that dressing the same way each time would bring good luck.  Since they had won dressed in a certain way once, they thought dressing in that same way would help win more games.  According to the informant, her team won the nationals when she was ten, and got second place when she was twelve, so, something must have been working.  The informant went on to explain how she thought the ritual was more of a mental preparation: “As long as you feel like you’re prepared for the game, and you think you’re lucky, then you will make your own luck and play well because you think you’re going to play well.  It might have been a mental thing, but it seemed to work for us.”

I agree with a lot of what my informant thought about the superstition.  Often superstitions act as self-fulfilling prophecies, and this softball ritual for winning is a good example.  Having the ritual probably helped give the team confidence which would help the team play at their best and give it their all.  After winning in the same clothes, with the same ritual several times, it’s clear that the players think the clothes had some kind of power and doing the ritual right would help win games.  However, alternately, the ritual also gives the players something to blame if they do badly.  They could qualify a lose and think, “oh, it’s not my fault, maybe I just accidentally put my left sock on before my right sock, which ruined my luck for the whole game.”  So, the ritual acts both as a confidence booster and a scapegoat, displaying one of many ways in which a person may try to rationalize good and bad things that happen to them.

See Also:

Burger, Jerry M and Lynn, Amy L.  “Superstitious Behavior Among American and Japanese Professional Baseball Players.”  Basic and Applied Social Psychology.  Vol 27.  Issue 1. Page 71.