In other words I’d been a lifelong Tarheel fan by the time the ’93-’94 season came around. The team’s run to a championship that year remains vivid in my memory, something I wrote a little about over on Ocelot Sports a couple of years ago and also chatted with Dr. Pauly about on a podcast we did for the 20th anniversary of the final game between UNC and Michigan.
One part of that memory that stands out was the way my friends not only found it necessary to watch all of the tournament games at the same place (one friend’s apartment), but for all of us to sit in the same seats as well as the Heels kept winning each game.
I recall more and more people joining us as they proceeded through the tournament, with about 20 crammed in the small living room for the final. But the core group all kept our same seats so as not to disturb the spell of Carolina’s streak. As my buddy the host explained, “You can’t prove it doesn’t have an effect.”
At the time I vaguely thought about the logic class I’d taken as an undergrad and phrases like “proving a negative” and “proof of impossibility” and “correlation does not imply causation.” I played cards occasionally then, but this was before I’d get heavily into poker and the study of the game, and so I don’t think I knew about the “gambler’s fallacy” then, or I’d have probably thought of that, too.
My buddy Bob (a.k.a. the “Poker Grump”) who regularly writes strategy articles for PokerNews has written smartly about the latter. In “What is the ‘Gambler’s Fallacy’ and How Does It Apply to Poker?” he explains how it works, starting with the example of a roulette player allowing the phenomenon of a ball landing on red nine straight times influence him to think that has something to do with what will happen on spin number ten.
Superstitions among sports fans aren’t quite the same thing, although they share a common lack of rationality. A poll conducted by Associated Press-Ipsos several years ago found that a little more than 20% of sports fans “say they do things in an attempt to bring good luck to their favorite team or avoid jinxing them.”
The Super Bowl is Sunday, and Vera and I have already been invited to a couple of viewing parties. As readers of the blog surely have picked up on by now, I have a rooting interest in the game, one that matches where I was with the Heels back in the spring of 1994. In this case my fandom has also been building for decades and through a long, exciting season’s worth of games, most of which have gone my team’s way.
I’ve watched all of those games this year from the couch here -- from the same side, actually, where I’m sitting and typing this post.
I’m thinking it might be nice just to stay at home on the farm on Sunday.