January 20, 2013. The NFC Championship Game had ensued, and the San Francisco 49ers battled the Atlanta Falcons. For years, I had rooted for the 49ers, a team that I could count on to have a talent for sucking. But luckily, the 49ers let me down, and after a Cinderella season with new coach Jim Harbaugh and new quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the team was on its way to win the Superbowl. I could feel it.
I knew it was too good to be true. At the beginning of the second quarter, the 49ers were already down by 17 points. Great start. Instead of watching the game on TV with the rest of my family, my friend Avni and I decided to start a new one.
Growing up in California, I realized quickly that tangerines are a very versatile fruit. They’re great ammo when you’re fighting your brother, they taste pretty good, and they’re a decent replacement for a ball. So when Avni asks for a tangerine, I walk to the kitchen and toss it to her. As a joke, she throws it back at me, and it soon turns into a game of catch. Then, we hear my dad scream; Vernon Davis makes a 27-yard touchdown to put the 49ers on the scoreboard. At the same time, our brilliant 12-year-old minds have an epiphany. This game of catch was somehow linked to the game of football. This was a lucky game of catch, one that could win the 49ers the game.
Now think of the Friends episode where Monica, Joey and Ross play a game of catch without dropping the ball for twelve hours straight. That’s how seriously Avni and I took this game. With her strategically sitting on the counter and me in an athletic stance, we did not drop that tangerine. We dove for the wild throws, we went without food or water and we almost broke my mom’s nice china. But guess what? The 49ers won the game. They overcame a 17-point deficit, the largest in NFC championship history.
Coincidence? I think not. See, normal people are superstitious of normal things like black cats and cracks on sidewalks and Friday the 13th. But I’ve grown up in a family that prefers to bond over the NBA Finals instead of movie night. And when your family (and friends like Avni) spends half of its time together watching sports, you get attached to teams and games that you can’t really control. That’s where our superstitions come in, superstitions like the tangerine game. In fact, here’s a list of some of the sports superstitions my family believes in:
- In our family room, which is where we watch sports games, there are two couches, a brown one and a red one. My brother has to sit on the red one, and my dad, mom and I have to squish onto the brown one. Otherwise our team will lose.
- During a 49ers game, I have to go outside during the fourth quarter. They play better when I’m not watching.
- We can’t go to Warriors games as a family. They always lose when that happens.
- My dad can’t wear the same colors as our team while we’re watching the game. They always lose when that happens too.
- If we care about who’s playing in the Super Bowl, we can’t go to a party at someone else’s house. We either host one at our house or isolate ourselves if we want our team to win.
- We always watch SportsCenter after the game.
- Oh yeah, and the tangerine one, even though that was just a one-time thing.
It’s pretty lame if you think about it. We believe that these dumb, trivial actions result in that buzzer beater, that amazing comeback, that last-ditch shot. We want to think that we, not the athletes, make or break the game.
But hey, I guess you can thank Avni and I for the 49ers win on January 20, 2013.