During the title runs for the Rockets some 20 years ago, I had a game-time ritual. I had a cheap plastic mug with the team’s All-Star candidates from the 1992–93 season on it, acquired from some radio promotional event. Every night for every game, I filled that mug with Dr Pepper, and it had to remain at least partially filled until the game was over. That was the deal.
For two seasons, I drank my fill of sugar water for the good of the team. When I finally retired that crappy mug after the second championship, I became convinced their playoff futility was connected, at least in part, to my decision.
Fans do these sorts of things. Actually, athletes do too. There are legendary stories of famous players and their oddly ritualistic behavior: wearing the same shorts for every game of a career (Michael Jordan), bringing shower shoes to the game (Serena Williams) and eating chicken before every game (Wade Boggs). Somehow, we’re all ruled by superstition.
With the Rockets back in the Western Conference Finals for the first time in 18 seasons, it seemed a good time to revisit a few rules regarding such rituals to ensure you don’t jinx them. Of course, if you are a Warriors fan, by all means, break with tradition.
Keep It Simple
If you are going to start a ritual, make sure it’s something you can do every time. Standing in your kitchen and turning the water faucet off and on repeatedly may be a lucky charm, but you (and the team) are screwed if you can’t be at home for a game. Try a lucky blanket (or plastic mug). You can always bring it with you.
In that classic film tribute to minor league baseball, Bull Durham, Kevin Costner’s character admonishes fellow players not to mess with a winning streak. Heed his warning. Whatever you did when the Rockets won, do it again. Don’t waver. This may mean that if you miss a game and they are winning, you have to continue NOT watching. Take one for the team.
Don’t Disregard the Signs
If you go to a game and they lose, DO NOT RETURN. I don’t care how much it hurts. I don’t care if you already have tickets. Sell them and use the money to buy a lucky blanket.
Your Family is Crazier Than You…No Matter What They Say
If your partner demands that you launder your lucky (albeit stinky) Rockets shirt, refuse. If necessary, hide it. Remember, you don’t mess with a streak.
Break with Tradition When Necessary
However, if that smelly rag cost us a game, burn it in the yard. Make it a formal ceremony. Invite the neighbors. These are the playoffs, man! Don’t let us down.