On Ramen Noodles, Win Streaks, and Fandom
Sports make us do some weird things. We intentionally wear clothes that match with tens of thousands of strangers. We cover our skin in coloring material meant for walls that takes an hour of meticulous scrubbing just to show we like our team. We invest so much emotion and time into an experience in which we as fans have so little impact.
Playoff baseball brings out some aberrant superstitions among fans. I wouldn’t say that I’m superstitious, I’m just a little stitious. In the past month or so during the playoff push I stumbled into a superstitious habit of cooking ramen noodles whenever I watched the Rangers. A funny thing happened: the Rangers started winning. The team kept winning three times in a row when I cooked ramen and at that point I decided to start taking note. I kept it to myself and kept keeping track then made the superstition public to the world here.
Rangers when I eat Ramen for dinner so far: 5-0. The sample size I’ve been measuring is about 2 weeks. That’s how college I am.
— Brice Paterik (@80GradeWhitt) October 1, 2015
The exact origin of the streak is unclear but I know that it was one of the games in the sweep of the Astros September 14-17. That streak was perpetuated through early October when the Rangers were pulling away from Houston in the division standings.
Most would tire of the sodium abundance or protein dearth in their dinner for days in a row, but I am not most people. My team needed me! The Rangers needed me to boil that block of noodles for days in a row, because team members have a moral imperative to do whatever it takes to help their team win. It doesn’t matter if this is standing out in the pouring rain to scream yourself horse to show the meaning of home field advantage. It doesn’t matter if you need to skip work or dates to cheer on your team in the numbing cold or blistering heat. And it sure as shoot doesn’t matter if that means buying more than a lifetime supply of ramen noodles (or wearing a certain number 35 shirsey).
This ramen streak isn’t the first ridiculous thing I’ve done that has had an apparent impact on my sports team. My freshman year at Alabama I was a Heisman snub. My campaign started in the LSU game that year. It was late in the fourth quarter and bama was down with little sign of fixing it. I left the room to go grab some chips and suddenly Alabama completed a deep pass. My friends yelled and I came back in the room to watch AJ McCarron throw two incomplete passes to make it third down. I then left to go to the bathroom and McCarron converted a third and 10.
Hearing my fraternity brother’s wild screams I ran back into the living room and was immediately shooed back into the bathroom. Good things happened for Alabama football. So I, being a good fan, went back to the bathroom and stayed there. That drive continued and culminated in a screen pass touchdown that will forever live in the memory of Alabama fans.
I’ve seen it many times since but I was glad to miss it live because my team needed me to be in the bathroom, so I did what was necessary to help my team. The SEC championship that year was a tight one and I spent almost all of the second half in the bathroom leaning up against the wall. Friends would run into the hallway and scream updates to me so I knew whether the shrieks were of joy or sadness. Alabama would win an unbearably tight game against Georgia and we were certain that my Heisman campaign was won (side note I wasn’t even invited to the ceremony as a finalist).
But this isn’t about Alabama football. I believe the reason we do these ridiculous things is because we want to feel the illusion of control. After all that we pour into sports fandom sometimes it can be difficult to come to grips with the sad realization that we have such a small impact on the thing we love so much. Maybe it just calms our nerves to have one thing that we can control; one thing that will help keep our sanity somewhat in check during the high stress time of year that is postseason baseball.
Now I don’t want you thinking I wrote this to shame or belittle the collective quirks of baseball fans everywhere. I wrote it to celebrate and encourage those quirks. Embrace whatever little thing you do to try to help your team win. It’s an integral part of the fan experience. Those weird little things let us know that it’s time for baseball games that will cause intense nausea and elation usually within the same inning.
So put on your mismatching socks, your lucky undies, or special shirsey. I’ll get the ramen ready, because it’s time for playoff baseball, and I’m getting hungry.