By Ginger Costen
I don’t consider myself to be a very superstitious person. I’ve purposely walked under a ladder or two in my lifetime, laughed at Friday the 13th and have driven on down the road without a care in the world after a black cat went SAFELY across my path.
So why am I feeling so guilty over the Patriots losing the AFC conference game…because I didn’t wash my hair before it started. Yes, I know it’s hard to believe that one person could hold so much power, but it’s my fault. How did I come to this decision?
Well, I’m glad you asked. It’s a confusing turn of events for you see, football, in itself, is not the end-all sport for the Costen family. No, here the days are numbered by how many are left on the calendar before the trucks leave Fenway Park and head south to Florida. Summer is calibrated on the days left before the All Star game in July. And, finally how many days are left before the World Series.
No, for most of the Costen family, the world revolves around baseball. With every snow storm my husband Mike heads begrudgingly out the door, grabs the snow shovel and announces to the world, “there are only 62 days left before the pitchers arrive for Spring Training!” Like this was some sort of warning to Mother Nature that she has a very small window of opportunity to dump inches - or feet - of snow on New England (and his yard).
Sadly though, she must not be listening, because with every storm he announces the newest tally with greater volume and annoyance in his voice.
Then, after the teams have all arrived in their training places with sun shining faces, he then announces the days and sometimes hours, before the first ball will be officially and ceremoniously thrown across home plate.
“Just so you know,” he politely tells me, “there are only four more days left for you to get spring cleaning out of your system before it’s game time.” He knows that yelling at me like he does Mother Nature might be far worse than anything she could shower down on him.
So let’s get back to football.
As most of you probably know, I was born, raised and lived 44 of my 62 years on the West Coast where the Sprague/Lengenfelder family shared equal enthusiasm for football. We counted the days before the teams reported for training camp. Life revolved around what game was on television on any given day and for that occasional rare treat, what kind of gastronomical culinary delight would be served while tailgating at a real live game.
I never thought I’d emotionally get past the betrayal I felt when my LA RAMS left southern California. So I poured my loyalty upon the humbled San Fransisco 49ers. Then, suddenly I found myself in New England and right in the heart of Patriots country. I tried to stay true to my team but there’s something contagious about being a Patriots fan.
So, a few years ago I silently and singly waited for the men of winter to arrive for training camp while trying to be a good Costen wife and cheer on for the boys of summer. I loved having a team that knew football was a real man’s sport and it was meant to be played in a way that, well more than one little plastic cup and batting helmet where all one needed for protection.
I’ve liked Bill Belicheck and Tom Brady from the first play-by-play action I covertly watched on our neighbor’s television. Occasionally, I’d stop on a game or two while changing the channel at home only to feel the eyes of consternation burning my way. Then, three years ago I came out of the closet with my own television no less and turned the game on while proudly announcing, “Yep! It’s game day and it’s time for Monday Night Football.”
So I’m not sure when the superstitious side of being a Patriots fan emerged but it did and this year I found myself wearing the same team t-shirt and blue jeans on game day. They were always washed and clean; ready for combat. I also started wearing my lucky Pats socks and watching the game from the same chair and serving the same snacks or refreshments.
I’d watch the commentaries and defend any occasional mistake by blaming the other side or the refs who clearly always favored any team but the Patriots. So why did I break tradition and not wash my hair that morning like I always do? I don’t know, but it’s the only thing that I did differently on Sunday, January 20, 2013. I had the same breakfast (spinach, bacon, tomato and cheese omelet) with our same best friends and neighbors (Pete and Carol Klocek) at the same restaurant (Talk of the Town). I wore the same clothes (the only thing I’ll list is the jeans, Pat’s t-shirt and socks), watched the game on the same television (Vizio) and fixed the same dinner (spaghetti and meatballs). We had the same snacks (crackers, cheese and a veggie tray) and I drank the same drink (sorry… only ice water). I just didn’t wash my hair on Sunday and waited until Monday. So, you see, it’s all my fault.
On Sunday I’ll be watching Super Bowl XLVII. I don’t have to worry about what game shirt I’ll be wearing because there’ll be people here with The Saints, Broncos, Bills, Pats and… the 49ers. But since both the Raven and the 49ers beat my Pats, I’ll be counting the days on the calendar until the trucks leave Fenway Park and the boys of summer head down to Florida. I just might have a separate piece of paper for when I’m not watching the commercials and count the days until the men of winter once again report for training camp next to Gillette Stadium.
Oh, and by the way. In case you’re wondering off all the sports and all the athletes in the world, baseball and baseball players just may be the most superstitious of them all.
Why baseball? Author and Connecticut College psychology professor Stuart Vyse explained that it’s all about waiting. “One reason,” he said on the CBS Morning Show, “is that the game involves so much waiting around and if they're waiting, they have time to perform these rituals.”
According to Vyse these rituals often involve:
The foul line:Players and coaches consistently and stubbornly refuse to step on the foul line on trips to and from the dugout.
Rally caps:If a team is down, all the players in the dugout will wear their caps inside-out or in some other funny way so as to bring about a rally for the team.
The pitcher:If no one gets a hit off a pitcher over the course of the game, it's considered bad luck to talk to the pitcher in the dugout.
Spitting:Spitting into a baseball glove is considered good luck for the player and team.
I knew there was a reason I NEVER wanted to touch a baseball. Go Pats!
“No,” My husband Mike said as I finished reading this column to him, “It’s PLAY BALL!”
“You’re both wrong,” our daughter Joscilyn Lengenfelder added, “It’s the Niners because I’m wearing my lucky red and gold sweatshirt on Sunday!”