Editor’s Note: We are taking a break from our regularly scheduled Friday feature on the history of Spring Training over the past 40 years to focus on a superstitious day. We will resume our historic series next Friday with a doubleheader that covers Spring Training in 1985 and 1995. And now without further adieu, we bring you, Friday the 13th.
Today is Friday, February 13, 2015.
For some people this means nothing more than the fact that yesterday was the 12th and tomorrow is the 14th.
For the superstitious among us today means all of the things above in addition to it being an unlucky day all the way around.
While many may think that the Friday the 13th craze started with a certain movie character named Freddy, the roots of Friday the 13th actually run much deeper than late 20th Century cinema.
Since the 19th Century Friday the 13th has been considered an unlucky day in Western and Eastern superstition.
Friday and the number 13 were considered unlucky by some on their own so it was only logical that both occurring at the same time would be even unluckier.
In fact fear of Friday the 13th even has a name; friggatriskaidekaphobia (Frigga being the name of the Norse goddess for whom Friday is named in English and triskaidekaphobia meaning fear of the number thirteen).
Personally I have never feared Friday the 13th and am among the people who consider it just another day.
But the arrival of Friday the 13th on the same day that many teams started sending their equipment down to their Spring Training facilities made me think about sports and the superstitious rituals that many players seem to follow.
There are players who will eat the same pregame meal because they feel that to eat anything else would risk certain disaster on the field.
Hitters on a hot streak in baseball are notorious for continuing whatever “routine” it is that they feel is behind their streak since they feel any deviation will likely mean the end to the streak.
The movie Bull Durham did a very good job showing the superstitious side of baseball through chants over bats, breathing through one’s eyelids, chicken, and of course a garter belt where the rose goes in the front.
Baseball is not the only sport with superstitions. Across all level of sports there are athletes who have a lucky shirt, or other article of clothing that they can’t go onto the field of battle without.
The link between superstitions and sports can start at a very early age.
Back in high school I did a feature article on the goalie of my school’s woman’s soccer team, who attributed her on-field success to a lucky argyle sock that she wore during every game.
Granted it was not a pair of socks but one single sock that took over when her “magic shoes” fell ill.
Throughout my career I have been around many other superstitious athletes, and I am sure I will meet many more. To date though a single “lucky” Argyle sock has been the most memorable superstition I have encountered.
So on this Friday the 13th beware of those around you who are extra cautious of their surroundings.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I am going to see if I can find a black cat while walking under a ladder and holding a broken mirror while stepping on all of the sidewalk cracks I can find.
Today, the eleventh day of the eleventh month, also known as November 11th, is set aside as Veteran’s Day in America.
The holiday got its start on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, was declared between the Allied nations and Germany in the First World War.
Commemorated as Armistice Day beginning in 1919, November 11th became a legal federal holiday in the United States in 1938.
In the aftermath of World War II and the Korean War, Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day, and became a holiday dedicated to American veterans of all wars.
So while this has long been a day set aside to honor the service and sacrifice of the men and women who have served in the armed forces to protect the freedoms that we all enjoy, the way to honor those troops has changed in many ways through the years.
Americans still put out their flags on this holiday. Some towns still hold parades and the banks and post office are still closed.
The honoring of veterans has moved into the nation’s sporting events as well allowing thousands of people to celebrate and remember in mass.
Watch almost any sporting event over the past weekend and there were displays of patriotism and honoring of the troops as far as the eye could see.
As troops have not always received warm welcomes on the home front it was especially nice to see how the men and women of the armed services are respected and appreciated for their sacrifice.
Had the honoring of the troops stopped at the pregame ceremonies it would have been the perfect way to say thanks. Unfortunately many teams and in some cases leagues took things a tad too far for my taste.
Many teams added camouflage flourishes to their uniforms as an homage to the troops. These flourishes in many cases included camouflage wristbands and towels as well as camo windbreakers and caps for the coaches.
The camouflagication of the sidelines even went so far as putting a camo pattern on the headphones the coaches used to communicate.
While I agree that honoring the troops on Veteran’s Day is a good thing I often cringe when I see people wearing camouflage without “earning it.”
Now, I know this is hunting season in most of the country, or at least down in Texas. So to be clear I am not trying to take away anyone’s right to wear camouflage and a bright orange vest while channeling their inner Elmer Fudd by going hunting for wabbits, deer, or ducks for that matter.
What I am saying is that over the past few years I have become more and more sensitive to people wearing the current style of military camouflage when they are out and about in their daily lives.
I have no issues with people wearing old school green camo since that can usually be determined not to be current issue and looks nothing like what the troops are currently wearing.
I even have a pair of camouflage cargo pants that are extremely comfortable but I made sure that I did not buy the “official” pattern when I got them.
So this weekend when I saw the various players with camouflage towels, and coaches with camouflage hats and headphones, I questioned once again if that was really the best way to honor the veterans.
By comparison when sports teams honor police and fire fighters they do not don S.W.A.T. patterns or simulate a firefighter’s bunker gear proving that one can honor our vets and first responders without dressing like them.
For years baseball players have worn camouflage uniforms a couple times a year to honor the troops so the trend is certainly not limited to football.
I certainly can be in the minority opinion here but to me the camouflage the troops wear is earned through the sacrifice of making it through basic training and then further tested through battle.
Using a camouflage towel to wipe up sweat between plays on the field just seems wrong to me.
In one of the games I was watching one of the camouflage towels fell to the turf and was stomped on as the players moved to that area of the field.
I know that the towel was not dropped intentionally, but seeing the image of that fallen towel had the same reaction for me as if I was seeing an American flag on the ground.
I guess I look at the camouflage that the troops wear as an extension of the flag that they are sworn to protect.
It would be deemed highly inappropriate for a football player to have a sweat towel that looked like the American flag on the field so in the same way the camouflage towels just seem equally inappropriate to the point of being offensive.
Again, I know that the intent of the teams and league is completely honorable and meant to pay tribute to the troops but the execution just strikes me as wrong.
Honor the troops with the 100-yard flags that are rolled out for the National Anthem and held by real soldiers in uniform.
Honor the troops by having people stand and cheer when a vet is on Jumbotron screen.
Honor the troops by thanking a veteran for their service.
These are perfectly fine ways to honor the troops without trivializing the uniform.
Again, I may be completely out on a limb here and perhaps the masses see no issues with the camouflage being used by athletes and coaches.
But to me it screams out like a cheap gesture and also a way to make money as the camouflage caps are often available for purchase by fans.
I have never served in the military and do not pretend to be able to speak for the troops.
To do that a few years back I asked an Army reservist their thoughts on the uniform pattern being worn by non-soldiers and they said, “Camo is a uniform worn by the military and should be given the proper respect. Too many have died with the uniform on for it to be the latest fashion trend.”
And again before I get angry replies from hunters neither I, nor the soldier quoted above, are referring to the camouflage cap you can get at Walmart with your hunting camouflage pattern and favorite team’s logo on it.
I am talking about the use of the current military camouflage pattern and nothing else.
So, on this Veteran’s Day if you see a soldier, make sure you thank them for their service which makes your freedom possible. For that matter thank a veteran any time you happen to cross paths with them since thanks should not be limited to a single day of the year.
And if you see an athlete wearing camouflage know that their heart is likely in the right place. But try not to go out and buy the same camouflage cap they are wearing since there was a price paid and a sacrifice made every day by thousands of Americans in that pattern and wearing that comes with a willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice for your country.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a flag to place on the patio
Copyright 2015 R. Anderson
Observations from the cheap seats, the beach seats and everywhere in between