Smacking for Luck–Magic and Football

“Outside the Loyola Academy locker room, in the hallway, they have one of those motivational signs that saya, you know, ‘Play Like a Rambler Today’ (the Rambler is the football team name) and it was just put up there in the locker room, but kids took to pounding it as they walked out before the game. When we walked in the hallway, there was the sign at the end. No one would think about going by it without smacking it. If you all smacked the poster, then the game was going to go well. If you didn’t, well…”


This practice probably started as one player just deciding to smack the poster once for fun and then being mimicked by the other players on the team. However, it has since evolved into a form of folk magic. By smacking the poster, the players are hoping that their opponents will also be smacked down. Because so much of the outcome of a football game is the result of chance (if the wind was blowing right at the right moment, if a player was left unguarded at the perfect opportunity to score, etc), the use of folk magic allows the players to act as though they have control over these moments of chance. If the entire Loyola Academy team smacks the poster, they have ensured that those moments of chance in the game will go well for them. It also provides them with a scapegoat in the event that the game does not go well. “Well, x wasn’t here today, so he didn’t smack the poster. That’s why we lost.” Any failure on the field, whether it was something that the players could have controlled or not, is now attributed to whether the poster was smacked by the whole team. It releases the team as a whole from blame and culpability.