Game Day Rituals (Part I)

While working my way through Warren St. John's Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer, I have been given glimpses into my own psyche by those portions of the book dealing with such thorny questions as whether to miss a close relative's wedding if it conflicts with an important football game and under what circumstances it is appropriate to name your children after coaches and players.  

Warren St. John, who is so revered a chronicler of college football fandom that we named the river running next to the site of the Georgia-Florida game in his honor.

One of the traditions Warren evaluated in his journey into the heart of fan mania was the pregame victory ritual.  A large number of sports fans have things they do, clothes they wear, and good luck charms they cherish to help their team win.  

For instance, Chris and Paula Bice, a pair of Crimson Tide fans in Simpsonville, S.C., eat "Bama Bombs"---maraschino cherries soaked in pure grain alcohol---before entering the stadium.  When Warren first met the Bices, their discussion turned to such matters as ways of bringing good fortune to (or, at least, avoiding calamity for) their team:  

We compare superstitions:  I never wear red on game day, and I never take a shaker into a stadium, acts that jinxed Alabama in our 1980 home loss to Notre Dame.  Chris and Paula say they can't imagine not wearing red to an Alabama game, and as for shakers, Paula has been taking the same withered frond of a shaker to every Alabama game for the last twenty years.  But they seem to appreciate my asceticism; resisting the urge to wear red takes willpower.  Perhaps I'm a real fan after all.

I know people who wear a particular outfit to the first game of the year and, if the 'Dawgs win, they wear the same outfit for the rest of the season.  (One such person was appalled when I showed up at the second game of the season wearing a different shirt from the one I had worn to the Bulldogs' opening victory.)  

I take a different approach.  Since I own Georgia apparel for every conceivable climatic condition, my game day attire generally is dictated by the weather.  However, my color scheme is partly dependent upon the site of the contest:  I wear a red shirt if the Bulldogs are playing at home and a white shirt if they are on the road.  For neutral site games such as the Florida game, the S.E.C. championship game, and bowls, I wear what the team is wearing; if the 'Dawgs take the field in red jerseys, I watch the game in a red shirt.  

You cannot underestimate the impact any individual accessory will have on team mojo, however.  In 1999, my niece, Kate, gave me a watch for my birthday.  It was a red and black watch with Uga's image superimposed over the face of the timepiece.  Naturally, I made a practice of wearing it to games, but I accidentally left it at home when I headed over to Athens for a game late that fall.  

The opponent was Auburn.  The result was not pretty.  I assume full responsibility.  

I hate Auburn.

Due to oversights such as that one, I try not to rely exclusively on my own ability to detect good Georgia vibes.  As I pointed out repeatedly at Kyle on Football last fall, my son, Thomas, is a mojo savant.  Thomas senses which way the wind is blowing before the game and it is up to me to read correctly the signs he provides.  

Because of this, I never choose the cap I will wear to the game.  Rather, I set out an array of hats and ask Thomas to choose the one he likes best.  Just as Billy Crystal let his brother pick out which jacket was funnier in "Mr. Saturday Night," I let my son pick out which cap is luckier on a Saturday morning.  

I know what you're thinking.  "Did he wear this cap for a win or for a loss?"  Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself.  But being as these are the Georgia Bulldogs, the most powerful football team in the world, and could knock your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself a question:  "Does this cap feel lucky?"  Well, do you, cap?

On occasion, I have been asked to confront the question of using lucky game day apparel for purposes other than bringing good fortune to the Bulldogs.  This is a genuine ethical quandary to which I have given considerable thought.  

During the season, I am extremely hesitant to use Georgia luck for any other purpose than contributing to a Bulldog victory.  Sometimes, during a Red and Black bye week, it is tempting to employ your lucky game day attire in order to help another team win or (more likely) to cause a rival team to lose.  

I would caution against squandering 'Dawg fortune in this manner.  Orlando Cepeda would not use a bat again after getting a hit with it; his thinking was that each bat only contained so many hits and you never knew if that was the last hit the bat contained.  Orlando Cepeda is in the Hall of Fame, so, unless you, too, have a plaque in Cooperstown, you have no business criticizing his logic.  

Not only did Baby Bull have sound ideas about hitting, he was born on the 150th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution.  You can look it up.

I feel much the same way about lucky game day talismans.  If you use them to obtain, say, a Georgia Tech loss, you're running the risk of wasting good fortune that otherwise could have been used to contribute to a Georgia victory.  

My advice would be to use your game day totems only to help the Red and Black win, although there is one exception to this rule.  If the outcome of another game directly impacts Georgia, it's all right to use Bulldog luck for or against another team.  You can't just want another game to turn out a certain way; you have to need a particular outcome.  

During the offseason, it's an entirely different story.  There's no need to let positive mojo ferment in your closet or your chest of drawers from New Year's Day until Labor Day; in fact, you need to take it out for a spin every so often, like cranking a car periodically to keep the battery charged.  Mojo is like a muscle . . . use it or lose it.  

When football season isn't going on, I sometimes wear particular articles of game day apparel to weddings, during court appearances, and on other special occasions.  I wore lucky game day clothing when I went to get my taxes done this year and I wound up getting a refund.  

Coincidence?  I think not.  In fact, I am convinced that, if football had come to Athens three decades sooner and enough Georgians like my great-great-grandfather had worn lucky game day apparel to war, the first day at Gettysburg would have gone altogether differently.  

If he had worn the right baseball cap and wristwatch to Appomattox Courthouse, history might have told a different tale.

To be continued. . . .  

Go 'Dawgs!  

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