The USC-Stanford Shootout Contributes to a Sports Jinx

I was fortunate enough to get a late-moment invite to the thrilling USC-Stanford game on Saturday night and enjoy, in person, one of the best college football games I have ever seen.

But, one thing about the night bothered me.

Moments after Nickell Robey delivered the Trojans a pick-six against all-world Andrew Luck, the public address man at the Coliseum said “As a reminder, fans are prohibited from running onto the field at the end of play.”

It's illegal to rush the field. And it should be illegal to jinx your own team.

I immediately thought to myself, with just over 3:00 on the clock, that the PA guy jinxed the upset. I was right.

Obviously the jinx is well-known throughout sports. Even casual sports fans are well aware of the jinxes, maybe because of the Madden Curse that has blended the NFL and gamers. Injuries have cursed Eddie George, Michael Vick, Donovan McNabb, Shaun Alexander, Vince Young and this year’s cover boy, Peyton Hillis. There’s just too much evidence for it to not be considered coincidental.

Or, the Sports Illustrated jinx, which spans much more history than the Madden Curse. Fans will write the magazine when their favorite team or player is featured on the cover, knowing that doom awaits their beloved squad.

Even a lot of players are superstitious to jinxes. Wade Boggs famously held the same routine for his entire playing career (Leading us to note that fried chicken in the Red Sox clubhouse was not new to John Lackey, Jon Lester and Josh Beckett this season.) How often do you see baseball players jump over the foul lines? Or basketball players go through the same motions at the free throw line? Athletes of all kinds tie their shoes a certain way, or perform some mundane duty the same way in the hopes of maintaining whatever success they had from the first time they did it.

(Tangent: I played high school baseball with a player who had one pant leg all the way down and one hiked up to his knee. His reasoning was that the one game he did that – by accident at first – he had four hits.)

With so many jinxes and curses throughout sports, why even tempt the gods? Why announce to the 90,000 rowdy fans that in the chance your team upsets the No. 4-ranked team in the nation that it’s illegal to rush the field?

Simply put, why play with fate?

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