Superstition and How It Works for the Good of the Ducks

Alex Towne FishWrap, FishWrap Archive

And so it begins. A brand new season of college football is upon us, and with it a brand new assortment of superstitions. (Cue all the eerie music from the Sci-Fi channel.)

Growing up in an all-University of Oregon household, I learned to love the Ducks from a young age. I also learned the countless routines and superstitions my dad performed throughout every football season. It wasn’t until I finished puberty that I realized this behavior might not be normal.

Apparently the success of the team is actually due to their abilities, coaching and a bit of luck. However, my dad thinks he has been single-handedly controlling the fate of the Duck football squad for the last 30 years. He carefully executes a wide range of rituals, believing he is the Puppet Master behind each and every Duck win and loss. When they lose, he’s sure it was his own misstep. When they win, it only serves to reassure him that he’s doing the right thing, and must keep on keepin’ on.

There is no stopping this man. No matter how many times you tell him what he is doing doesn’t make a difference, he presses on with relentless dedication. Whether it’s driving 10 extra miles to assure that there is no number 8 on the odometer, clicking the car lock exactly 3 times, or rearranging all of the stamps and envelopes into a perfect pattern, my father holds the key to the Ducks’ success.

Growing up, dad’s idiosyncrasies were all just part of the routine. It never struck me as odd that he was constantly checking, fidgeting, and changing things throughout the house when the Ducks were playing. It was how he lived, and thus, how I lived too. I didn’t question it.

Bralon Addison praying to the football gods

Steve Francis

Bralon Addison on bended knee.

Sometimes I would notice mom looking over at dad like he was crazy, which is warranted. Die-hard football fans are crazy in their own way. To put so much time and faith into something you can’t control is ludicrous in its own right. Yet he persists. Consider these examples:

The dreaded number eight is by far the biggest superstition in my dad’s book. If there is anything that has an eight in it that could be changed to a different number, my Dad will immediately change it.

The number eight is like the plague. It must be avoided at all costs, lest the Ducks be saddled with an “L.” He is convinced the Ducks lost to Stanford two years ago in Eugene because Microsoft Windows 8 was the sponsor and repeatedly showed up on the screen throughout the broadcast. He could not get it changed, or he would have.

On the other hand, the sacred number is 7. Anything with a 7 in it is a good omen. It could mean anything from a first down to a Ducks win, depending on the context of the 7. The more unlikely the place, the more important the number 7.

If the Ducks give up a big play, or turn the ball over, dad will switch seats on the couch, or move to a new chair. Likewise when the Ducks are playing well, he will maintain that exact position for as long as possible. He transforms into a Duck football-obsessed mannequin before your very eyes.

Sometimes if the Ducks are playing really bad he leaves the room to watch from a different TV. But that’s only in worst-case scenarios and is only a smoke screen. (It must be noted that all TVs in the house are set to the game channel, no matter if people are watching them or not.)

My father works to prevent a loss far more than he does to inspire a win for the Ducks. One of the most cynical fans I have ever known, he does everything in his power to stop the bad and encourage the good things to happen. Not to say that he doesn’t cheer, he certainly does, but he spends most of the time watching the game biting his nails and looking like he has severe stomach pain. He looks physically ill … but then again, you would too if you had to decide the outcome of a game.

A father teaching his son the exact right way to cheer

Kevin Cline

A father teaching his son the right way to cheer on the Ducks.

Being an Oregon alumnus and ardent Duck for more than 40 years, dad has been through a lot. He consistently reminds me of how great I have it these days as a Duck fan. He was a fan through the turmoil of the early and mid-70s, also the infamous “Toilet Bowl” in 1983 – a zip-zip tie with the bitter rival Beavers.

A lot of new fans don’t realize, that this is the best the Ducks have ever been. While the Ducks had some good years in the ’80s and ’90s, it was the Rose Bowl team of 1994 that led Oregon out of  the “Doormat Days” of the Pac-10 to the level of play that younger fans now often take for granted.

I am lucky enough to have grown up with Duck teams that consistently punched out 9-10 win seasons and bowl berths that Duck fans in the past could have only dreamed of.

So, while I do find it pretty ridiculous, I can respect my dad for trying. Even I sometimes succumb to the mysterious, yet compelling desire to control my team. Taking right after dad, I switch seats during games, too, now. Other times I change Oregon hats, so as to end the bad mojo in tough situations.

But college football couldn’t be decided by mysterious forces right? Or maybe there’s something I don’t know …

Share a comment with some of your superstitions. Are they ridiculous? Are they insane? Do you think they make a difference on the outcome of the game? I’d love to hear what some of you have to say, and I think it would be interesting to hear some inner-sanctum superstitions from the FishDuck community.

I mean … it’s only weird if it doesn’t work, right? Well, maybe there’s some truth to that. So – go Ducks (fingers crossed)!!

Top Photo by Craig Strobeck

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