Superstition (Crystal Palace – NFFC Programme Notes)

My dad, like me, is a season ticket holder at the City Ground. However he’s unable to attend Tuesday Night games (on religious grounds) meaning that, prior to the Ipswich game, he had not seen a Forest victory all season. This led him to the conclusion that his presence at games was bringing the team bad luck. In my experience, this kind of superstition, however irrational, is an integral part of the modern football fan’s struggle.

As irrational as it may seem, Dad had felt genuinely responsible for our poor start to the season. In fact, he felt so guilty about Steve McClaren’s sacking that he suffered recurring nightmares in which our former manager stood over him, frothing at the mouth and wielding an umbrella.

I went to see him before the Ipswich game and was shocked by the state he was in. During the international break, my usually clean-shaven father had grown a fearsome beard, the like of which you normally see on marooned sailors. I assumed it to be some sort of post-McClaren breakdown until he explained he was taking part in Movember.

Beard or no beard, he didn’t want to go to the game that day, fearing that his attendance would prove a bad omen for the players. But I dragged him out of the house, kicking and screaming, and we made our way to the City Ground.

As Marcus Tudgay headed in the last minute winner, Dad leapt around in a fit of unadulterated joy. The curse had been lifted.

But what had changed our fortunes so dramatically? We had done everything exactly the same as we had all season. On the journey home I became strangely captivated by the wild bushy hair that surrounded Dad’s mouth. And then it dawned on me … his beard had brought us good luck!

After a lengthy debate, he has agreed not to shave again until he sees us lose another game. This is in spite of the fact that he categorically hates facial hair of any type.

So, if you see a man who looks like a cross between Grizzly Adams and a Middle-Eastern dictator at today’s game, you’ll know he’s doing it for the good of us all. In many ways, he’s like a modern day Gandhi.

It isn’t just my family who believe these superstitions to be important. Whether it’s the shirt on our back, the turnstile we walk through or the Kris Commons voodoo doll we fold and stuff into our pockets before setting out, on some level most football fans believe that the result of games is influenced by supernatural factors.

The worst part is that as silly or inconsequential as a pre-match ritual may seem, if you ever forget to do it, your team will inevitably lose!

Whilst my dad has been unavailable on Tuesday nights, I have been taking my friend Wozz to the games. He’s a decent enough sort, but is renowned in the local community for being a big Mario Balotelli sympathiser. When he picked me up for the Middlesbrough game he was wearing his five-pronged Balotelli glove hat, insisting that it had always brought him good luck in the past.

Even though I had to spend a large proportion of the evening pretending not to know him, the hat inspired Forest to their first home victory of the season. He wore it again against Reading, and we secured another midweek victory. I had finally found the winning formula.

I know what you’re thinking … what went wrong against Leeds? Unfortunately, some rural yokel mistook his hat for a cow’s udder and tried to milk him. The embarrassment forced Wozz to take the hat off and shortly after Robert Snodgrass scored.

Many will blame our comprehensive defeat against Leeds on the lacklustre midfield performance or the ball not sticking in the final third, but I know it was all down to the absence of the Balotelli hat.

As a rational human being, I know that none of these superstitions are of any real consequence. Forest won’t win or lose, depending on which half-time pie I choose. However, that doesn’t mean that superstitions aren’t important. As ridiculous as they may seem, and whether positive or negative, they help to channel the football fan’s emotions.

Pele (world’s greatest ever player/men’s health adviser) once gave a signed shirt away to one of his fans. He started playing in a new shirt and it resulted in a horrendous dip in form, so he ordered a friend to get the original shirt back from the fan. The friend duly obliged and Pele’s form immediately returned. Years later the friend admitted he had never found the old shirt and had simply forged Pele’s signature on the new one.

I believe that fans’ superstitions work in a similar way. It’s not really the details that matter; it’s the positive feeling that these superstitious comforts generate that is important. Having a bit of belief is half the battle; if every single fan can clutch onto some extraneous detail, like I have, then we might all start believing in our beloved Forest again.

Incidentally, I’m joined by both my Dad and my friend Wozz today so, despite the fact that our row will look like the substitutes bench for the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, I’m ultra-confident that we are going to grab all three points.

 

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