Last March, during Syracuse basketball’s amazing run to the Final Four, I was coming close to 3,000 tweets in my four years on Twitter. After SU beat Indiana in the Sweet 16 to advance to the Elite 8, I was at 2,999 tweets. I told myself, ‘I will not tweet until Syracuse wins it all.’ Alas, SU did not win it all. But I did manage to go a week without tweeting until the Orange lost in the Final Four (a nice cleanse of sorts). I thought, if I don’t tweet, SU will keep winning. And it worked, for one game at least.
You’ve probably at one time (or many times) thought your superstitious actions controlled the outcome of a game. The clothes you wore and the food you ate on game day affected the outcome of a game played by 10, 20, 30 people, etc. Of course it did! (Or so you and thousands of other fans believed).
The term for this way of thought is called illusion of control. We are under the illusion that the decisions we make control the games we watch.
As much as we like to believe in the power of positive (or negative thinking), our quirky traditions and superstitions at times produce the results we’d like. But not always.
Maybe you sit in the same spot watching every game in the Dome or in your living room. Maybe you wear this one orange jersey and keep sporting the same gear as ‘Cuse continues to win. All of this is in good spirit, but it doesn’t take a genius to realize that we don’t control the games. For the most part, the players on the court and on the field do. But that doesn’t mean we have to change our way of thought.
My thought process has always gone like this—if I get a gut feeling before a game that’s good, my team is winning. If not, well, who knows. If I harbor winning thoughts, ‘Cuse will win. Makes complete sense.
In my four years at SU, from 2009-2013, I witnessed four successful basketball seasons, some more so than others. Before the 2009-2010 season, no one knew what to expect from the Orange, but a return Sweet 16 trip was not on people’s minds. But mid-season, as the team ascended in the rankings, expectations drifted to higher places than the Sweet 16. In the end the team made the Sweet 16. I had a good feeling about that team. The next year, I did not have as high expectations, and the team lost in its second Tournament game. Junior year, expectations were high again, and the team made the Elite Eight.
Last year, I had low expectations. I didn’t have a gut feeling this team was going far, and throughout the regular season, I thought I’d be right. But last year’s team made the Final Four. I felt good about the first two games in the Tournament, and SU won. The Orange obviously won because one individual thought SU would win, right?! I thought they’d lose to Indiana and Marquette, but it won those too. There’s not an exact science.
I’m not on campus this year so I don’t know the vibe buzzing around this year’s squad. But in the minds of many SU students and fans, any game SU wins could be a result of both Trevor Cooney’s ability to knock down threes and students’ ability to grab that same shirt out of the washing machine.
When SU wins and loses, the credit or the blame goes to the team. But deep down, some people think their own actions caused the win or loss.
It’s a completely irrational thought process. But as sports fans, we can’t help ourselves. To us, this kind of thought makes perfect sense.