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Fans' Superstitions to Help UK Win

Having raised a son who wore the same pair of boxers in every soccer game from age 10 through college and a daughter who believes you can actually jinx a team into losing, it’s no surprise to me that people are superstitious when it comes to sports.

In truth, my children come by their superstitiousness naturally. As a young softball pitcher, I could not pitch a game unless I used my father’s two-sizes-too-large glove. And their father… well, you better never say something like “looks like the Reds have this one in the bag” or “game over” before a game is actually over.

They also have a great aunt – my Aunt Jean – who used to lock herself in the bathroom when her favorite college basketball team started falling behind. The theory, of course, was that if she’s not watching, they won’t lose.

So, is it surprising? No. Interesting? Most definitely. Especially when you consider the lengths to which people will go to ensure that the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team wins its games.

The “interesting” angle hit home for me during last week’s UK game against UofL. While watching the game with friends – and as the Cats made their move to close the scoring gap with Uof L – one of the young men in the group promptly got up out of his seat, grabbed a wooden duck from a nearby bookshelf, then took another seat in the room, duck in hand. When I looked at him quizzically, all I got was “Don’t ask.”

I didn’t have to ask. It was universally understood that his simple act had value on some higher superstitious level. It must have worked because the Wildcats did indeed close the gap and went on to put UofL away and earn a berth in the Final Four.

I did ask my young friend later about the wooden duck thing, and here is what he said: “I have a silly superstition about knocking on wood. Toward the end of big games, I knock on wood during big free-throw attempts and when the Cats need a defensive stop. The duck just happened to be the only wooden thing around me. If I’m somewhere else I’ll knock on tables or chairs or whatever else is around that’s wooden.”

This knock-on-wood propensity got me to thinking about other … um … interesting ways UK fans conjure up Wildcat victories. So I took a very unscientific survey of my Facebook friends. Here is some of what I learned about our superstitious ways:

Where you sit matters. The number of people who said they have to sit in the same seat for every game closed in on 100 percent (it may be unscientific, but I can do the math!). Our very own KyForward columnist Keven Moore chimed in first, saying that while he might start out in the same seat, he will quickly move to another one if the opposing team goes on a big scoring run. And if a couple of seat changes don’t do the trick, “I’ll go to a TV in a different room.”

Another friend concurred: “Switching chairs when the team is playing bad is always a must.” And yet another said, “We watch in the same seats if we are watching in the same place that we’ve had a win. Or if we are in a new place watching, we move around, or not, in order to keep or change the mojo.”

A friend from my hometown of Henderson said she relies on a trusty recliner to will the Wildcats to victory, and if her husband happens to be in it when the going gets rough, he must quickly find another seat. Interestingly, that same friend is in Florida this week and has not only given her husband permission to sit in the recliner during this weekend’s games, she’s demanded it – with their dog, wearing its UK shirt, sitting in his lap. Meanwhile, she’ll be watching from her beachfront condo, I’m sure willing them to win in some newfound manner.

My daughter – the same one who believes in jinxes – watches the games with the same group of people at Jack Dempsey’s in New York City, where she lives. And they have to sit at the same table and in the same seats around the same people, or else!

One of the most interesting seating arrangements came from a former co-worker who said she not only must sit on the same couch for each game, she must sit on the middle cushion. Period. And another friend said he doesn’t sit at all. “I have stood the entire tourney. And that will continue.”

What you wear matters. As many people who said they must sit in the same seat also said they must wear the same shirt – or pants or socks or hat or glasses or, yes, even underwear… you get the picture. Our fascination with the power of clothing borders on … hmmmm … let’s call it entertaining. The saving grace is that most – although not all – made sure to point out that they are allowed to wash the clothing before each wear, or at least use a little Febreze.

Here’s a sampling of what my wonderful, quirky Wildcat friends will be wearing this weekend:

“Jorts.” In case that needs explanation, my friend Dale has to wear his old blue jean shorts – the same kind made famous by Josh Harrelson, a UK fan favorite from the 2012 championship season. (I know for a fact they bring good luck even if they are hideous.)

“My lucky charm that I had during the 2012 season, along with the tournament, is wearing my blue bra!!! I also have a friend in Texas that has UK panties that she wore during the 2012 run, and she’s been wearing those during the tournament. We’re all nuts!”

“I have to wear my UK sweatshirt and Lily Belle (daughter) has to spit up on it around tipoff.”

“My mother’s UK socks … and a blue chevron watch.”

“Joe has to wear the same shirt and pants. Thankfully I can wash them. And he makes sure Norman (the dog) is wearing his UK bandana.” (They’re from Nebraska, no less!)

“Blue toenails.”

What you drink matters: I get the impression that it doesn’t matter as much what you drink as long as you drink – something – whether it’s sweet tea or a stout ale. But two Facebook friends were pretty specific about what they must drink when UK is playing:

“Wine with every game!”

Fair enough. And …

“In the SEC tourney, we do tequila shots based on the number of games the Cats have to win to win the tourney. Then come NCAA time, I do two shots before the game and one at halftime. It forces me to monitor my alcohol intake closely … but you gotta do what you gotta do to root the Cats home!”

What you do matters: This is where things get a little … scary! The rituals, routines, simple actions Wildcat fans feel obliged to perform before, during and after a game range from cute to I think you might want to seek help. (Just kidding, Facebook friends! We’ll let our readers be the judge of that.)

“Volume on the TV is the most important. Same number for every game throughout the tournament. I did this in 2012 and we all know how that turned out, so clearly it works. For each household that volume number might be different but you better make sure it’s an even number.”

“I have a tradition of polishing the silver during March Madness games. I can’t sit still and do nothing when watching those games. It burns off my nervous energy. Not ashamed to admit it. Some years more pieces got polished more than others.”

“My cousins and I all group text each other to cheer them on! Not really a superstition but we’re yelling ‘Go Cats!’ all around the country.”

“Just yesterday my husband mentioned his long fingernails were driving him crazy. I looked at him, puzzled. He said he was not cutting them until Kentucky lost again (they haven’t lost since he cut them last). I expressed concern if they win it all and he has to go into next season! Ha! He assured me the end of the season means nails will be clipped.”

“My daughter calls a longtime friend prior to the games and they talk throughout the games. This has gone on for years.”

“In 2012, I had to iron during every NCAA game. I was going through closets looking for things to iron … even things we didn’t wear. This year, I had to do housework during the games. I went to Indianapolis on Sunday, so I couldn’t do it … and we still won. Probably will go back to the housework this weekend.”

“My daughter has a four-leaf clover in a necklace that she will wear and she will have us all run (literally) when things take a turn for the worse.”

And, finally, there’s my neighbor and friend who said she has no superstitions at all … she just doesn’t watch the games.

“I go riding around in my car to listen every now and then to the game on the radio. I do not watch the games ….my heart can’t take it…I love them so much, I fear the heartbreak if they lose.”

This story appears courtesy of KY Forward and is written by Terri Darr McLean