Imagine you’re a professional football player. You’re a natural athlete, you can throw 50-yard passes, you’ve got moves that confound the defense every time. You’re breaking records with your amazing skills. You practice hard, you keep yourself in tip-top shape, you eat right, you work out. Your coach brags on you every press conference, your teammates know you are their team leader.
So on Sunday, you go out on the field. You give it all you got, you keep the team pumped up, you make all the right plays. Does your team win? Well, that depends on whether Joe Schmoe in Livonia has been faithful to his superstition and made sure to cross his left leg over his right for the second half.
Football fan rituals: voodoo if you will. Every weekend, LSU, UL and Saints fans religiously adhere to formulas that they fervently believe will guarantee the best performance of their beloved champions. Let’s take a look at what locals believe in, winning-wise.
In The Room
Some superstitions are geographic. For instance, there is a New Iberia woman who has not watched a Saints game in years, just knowing that if she does, she’ll make them lose. In another household, the husband gets antsy when the boys in black start slipping. He’ll disappear into the kitchen, or if it gets really bad, into the garage, trying to do something else so as not to jinx the team. He does, however, expect play-by-play to be delivered from the remaining fearless fans couch-coaching from the living room.
Another fan, Lisa Ross, says she does more or less the same thing. If the team is losing, she’ll click away, coming back to the game periodically to see if her channel-surfing has brought them back to winning status.
According to Karen Alvarez of New Iberia, their family has a similar routine when watching LSU games. She says, “My husband Mike and I are big LSU fans. For over 10 years, we had tickets in the suites at Tiger Stadium. I would watch the game from a seat with family or friends, but he would just sit on a cushion on the concrete stairs beside me. When LSU would start to play poorly, he would quietly (or not-so-quietly) pick up his cushion and move inside to find refreshments, not to return until victory was assured.”
The ritual has continued at the Alvarez home. “We no longer go to the stadium, but now he won’t watch the game at all to avoid the stress altogether. He goes to a friend’s house, and they don’t watch the game together. They drink beer and eat barbecue, while I’m at home watching every nuance,” Alvarez says. “I used to fill him in when he got home, but I stopped, figuring if he didn’t watch with me, he didn’t deserve to know the graphic details.”
Other rituals involve the wearing of certain apparel, from classic game gear, to some off-the-wall wardrobe choices. A Saints fan in Kaplan had a black and gold hair bow that was de rigueur for Saints Sundays. The bow has since gone to the great beauty salon in the sky, but she wore it until it tattered. Some fans wear their gameday shirts all weekend long; Craig and Kristine Gabriel (who hail from New Orleans but live in South Texas) put on their jerseys on Saturday and wear them through game time. “You’d be amazed how many Saints fans we encounter; there’s solidarity in Texas!” says Craig.
Of course, the jersey tradition doesn’t work for everybody. Nora Chunn (also a Houston transplant from NOLA) said, “Every time I wear a jersey for any team – Saints, Aggies, or Astros – they lose.” No tailgating for you in black and gold, Nora.
Nacho Winning Team
Big surprise, food plays a huge part in the rites of winning in these parts. And it seemingly extends past the fan base to coaches and players. For instance, former LSU coach Les Miles is known to munch on the turf of every stadium his team visited. For the record, he said that the grass at Tiger Stadium was the best.
During the Saints’ Super Bowl season, Coach Sean Peyton, well-known for chewing on Juicy Fruit every game, furnished Popeye’s Chicken to the team for every road game. They went 7-1 on the road that year, so there must have been something to it. They attempted to bring back that spicy fried chicken juju in the 2013-14 playoffs, with mixed results. It worked in Philadelphia, but, alas, not so much in Seattle.
Former Saints kicker Thomas Morestead has another edible tradition. “Once, my grandma made me brownies for the game, and we did well,” he says. “So I decided to make it stick. So every game day, either before, during or after, I make sure I eat brownies.”
There are some fans who match specific comestibles with certain games. Anne Flynn, diehard Saints supporter and hater of the Falcons, says, “I only have a ritual during the Atlanta game, when I make dirty bird gumbo and a voodoo doll.” Laurel Blackerby says she makes oven-fried wings and mimosas every game day. She’s a Saints fan, but moonlights as a Jimmy Garoppolo watcher. Tanya and Brian Smith go out for breakfast every LSU game day and have a very spicy Bloody Mary.
Fans have their prescribed rituals for acknowledging their team’s scoring drives, as well. One such fan, Kenny LeJeune, involves his entire family at hand, down to grandchildren. His tradition: when the Saints score, his group runs down to the stop sign at the end of their block, waves their Saints flag three times, and runs back to the house. He said the family just moved away from the neighborhood where the tradition started, but he hopes they can establish it in their new home. Let’s hope the new neighbors are forewarned!
The Whole Package
There are some fans that are in a category all their own. Michelle Meche, the self-proclaimed “Queen of Saints Superstitions” seems to have every aspect of game day covered. “Every year I say I’m not going to be superstitious, but every year I end up getting caught up in it,” she says.“It all started with my father. He grew up in the New Orleans area, Destrehan to be exact, and has been an avid Saints fan since the team began. I get my love of all sports from him... especially my love of the Saints.”
She continues, “Growing up watching the Saints was frustrating, to say the least. Our Saints didn’t even have a winning season until 1987. But we sat and watched the games religiously. If the Saints were winning, we didn’t change the position we were sitting in... if mom was out of the room and the Saints were winning, she wasn’t allowed to come in the room. Man, we were serious about our superstitions.”
Meche is indeed a superfan. When she graduated college and got a “real” job, she first bought herself a car, then season tickets to the Saints in 1989. “I’ve had them ever since,” she says.
When it comes to her list of fan rituals and superstitions, the list is long. “I usually pick out one outfit to wear for the season: the same shirt, the same jewelry, the same clear bag, and the same cap – the one I got from Coach Payton,” she says. “I drive in from New Iberia on Sundays for the home games. I always stop at the same convenience store for a bathroom break; then meet my cousin and her husband at the same location to ride in together. We park in the same spot each game.”
She’s had her current seats for more than 20 years and says the other fans who sit around her are like family. “They all know that my in-game ritual is one Bloody Mary per half. I don’t sway from that tradition/superstition,” she explains. “It all started during the Superbowl season in 2009. Every time it would look like the Saints were not going to pull out the win, I’d run down for a Bloody Mary. And wouldn’t you know it, the Saints would then rally and pull off the win....every time,” she exclaims. “As a matter of fact, during one of the playoff games that season, I hadn’t gotten my drink yet and the Saints were falling quite behind. One of the ‘crew’ from 2 rows below my seats snuck off and returned with a Bloody Mary for me. He said he wasn’t taking a chance on us losing...and we didn’t!”
No matter what our teams may do, how hard they work, or the skills they develop, it is all down to us. Wear your cap backwards, grab that old Deuce McAllister jersey (or not), stay in the room, stay out of the room – just get those guys to victory. So what voodoo do you do to keep our players on their winning streak?
Rules for Developing Your Own Fan Ritual
~ The superstition must be tied to some spectacular feat:“You remember when Joe Burrows threw for 463 yards to win the National Championship for the Tigers? You made eggplant that day. We need to eat that for every LSU game from now until forever.”
~ It must be consistent for all attendees:“Come watch the game with us, Uncle Ray. Marie’s fixing eggplant.... Oh, you don’t like eggplant? Well, see you in church.”
~ It must be sustainable:“Where is my purple and gold clown wig? You did NOT put it into the garage sale... but it had all that good game gris-gris. I’ll never get another one ready in time!”
~ There must be the correct attitude: “Yeah, I know, we lost. Yes, we ate the eggplant. Yes, I wore the wig. But hey, what if I hadn’t, think of how much worse it could have been.”