Whenever, we take part in events or situations where the outcome is important, our SuperSense kicks in whereby we engage in behaviors and rituals that we believe will affect the final result. Also, as I noted in a previous post, when we experience a sense of loss of control, we also become victims of magical belief.
It’s no surprise then that superstitious rituals are extremely common in sport both amongst players and fans. Nick Hornby wrote about his ritual of biting the head off a sugar mouse and lobbing it into oncoming traffic before each soccer match in his masterpiece of male obsession, “Fever Pitch.”
Today we learn that touching David Beckham’s bottom for luck has become a superstitious ritual to his fellow team-mates at the Italian club AC Milan. Well that’s their excuse as I am sure that many would like the opportunity to massage Beckham’s gluteus maximus.
As Hornby points out in Fever Pitch, the problem with superstitious rituals is that they have the tendency to become even stronger and more elaborate. Simple conditioning theory suggests that a string of failures should reduce the tendency to engage in ritualistic behavior. However, intermittent success (which is often the case for soccer) can increase these rituals in an attempt to regain the perception of control. This means that Beckham’s bottom could experience increased attention from the other players over next 3 months during his stint with AC Milan.
Watching Italian soccer may take on a whole new dimension or do you think I am being too ‘cheeky?’
UPDATE FEB 5th. We now learn that Beckham is considering staying at AC Milan! I wondered what persuaded him?