Lovemaking is among superstitions fans call upon to help their teams win

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One fan wanted his wife to call him Roger Clemens while the couple made love the night before a game Clemens was scheduled to pitch.

Another fan had a different routine based on the premise that lovemaking could help her favorite college football team win games. When in the throes of passion, she wanted her husband to wear only her favorite team’s jersey plus one blue sock and one yellow sock.

A Notre Dame football fan’s good luck ritual involved drinking three beers before the start of each quarter and reading three Bible passages before the start of a game.

Such revelations are included in a new book titled Fans: How Watching Sports Makes Us Happier, Healthier and More Understanding.”

In a telephone conversation Wednesday, author Larry Olmsted marveled at the superstitions fans believe can influence the outcomes of games.

“What’s crazy about it is it’s not just how funny and interesting and quirky the superstitions are,” he said, “but the people really believe it makes a difference.”

Olmsted acknowledged doubt about fans seeing lovemaking as a way to help their favorite teams.

“The sex ones are a little questionable because you wonder if fans are just using the fan excuse to spice up their sex lives,” he said.

Murray State psychology professor Dan Wann participated in a fact-gathering process that asked fans to fill out an eight-page questionnaire detailing the extent of their rooting interests.

“The really racy stuff didn’t make it in,” Wann said. “Some of the things people would say, we’d say, that’s really funny and that’s not leaving this office.”

Of course, fans play no small part in sports. Fans basically are sports with Olmsted saying, “99.9 percent of participants are spectators.”

One of the book’s themes is how sports can unite people in a common cause. Religion is “the most comparable system of widespread group identification and belonging,” Olmsted writes.

Randall Balmer, a priest and professor of religion at Dartmouth, is quoted as saying sports has overtaken religion as a unifying force.

In a series of anecdotes, the book cites examples of how the commonality of rooting interest can bring about societal change.

Jackie Robinson integrated Major League Baseball in 1947, beginning an evolution that Olmsted links to Barack Obama twice being elected President of the United States.

Title IX expanded participation in sports, which helped lead to the acceptance of more roles for women.

Nelson Mandela used rugby to bring Blacks and whites together in South Africa.

Olmsted pointed out that this kind of societal change takes time.

“Jackie Robinson didn’t come in, take the field and everybody was supportive of him the next day,” the author said.

Olmsted added that this kind of delayed appreciation might come one day for the Kentucky basketball team that knelt during the playing of the national anthem before a game at Florida last season. The players and coaches said they wanted to call attention to systemic racism in the United States. But some Kentucky fans harshly condemned the symbolic protest.

“Maybe 30 years from now there will be fans that say, ‘Oh yeah, I was at that Kentucky game when they knelt during the anthem,’” Olmsted said. “It’s a slow continuum.”

More immediately, the UK team’s peaceful protests (which also included a video produced in the preseason) showed that many fans prefer not mixing of sports and politics. Conservative television host Laura Ingraham telling LeBron James to “shut up and dribble” comes to mind.

The book cites a 2019 national telephone survey that showed more Americans believe God plays an active role in determining who wins a game than support the idea that politics has a place in sports.

“Fans” is available at bookstores and at sportsfansbook.com.

Name game

With Kentucky reportedly one of four finalists as a transfer destination, there’s another question besides where will he play next season hanging over Georgia point guard Sahvir Wheeler: Sahvir?

After completing a teleconference on Feb. 26, Wheeler asked if he could speak to media types on the Zoom call.

“You guys know I have a unique name, and if your child had a unique name, you’d want their name said right,” Wheeler said. “It’s SAH-veer.”

Then he spelled his name aloud.

The pronunciation is not “SIGH-veer.” Not “Severe.” It’s “SAH-veer.”

Ron Crandall, who coached Wheeler at Houston (Texas) Christian High School, said the player is irritated when his name is mispronounced. “He gets really offended by that,” Crandall said.

The name Sahvir was coined by the player’s father. Growing up in New York, Teddy Wheeler admired the paintings of Salvador Dali. He wanted to name the first of what is now six children after the artist. But his wife, Jacqueline, wouldn’t agree.

The name Sahvir was a compromise.

“It’s a New York name from Harlem,” the elder Wheeler told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I just sort of created it spur of the moment. I said what about SAH-veer, and she loved it. And it stuck.”

Booker note

During a recent podcast, host Jeff Goodman asked Hall of Fame sportswriter Bob Ryan to share his assessment of former Kentucky guard/current Phoenix Suns standout Devin Booker.

This prompted Ryan to playfully needle UK Coach John Calipari for not playing Booker (and Tyler Ulis) more in the memorable 2015 Final Four loss to Wisconsin. Booker and Ulis played 19 and 17 minutes, respectively.

“I’m holding John Calipari responsible (for) eternity for not playing him more,” Ryan said of Booker. “They would have won. John, you would have had another championship. You have to play those Harrison twins. Really? Oh, really?”

Andrew Harrison and Aaron Harrison played 31 and 27 minutes, respectively, in the game previously undefeated Kentucky lost 71-64. Booker and Ulis were on the bench when more than one shot clock violation down the stretch turned the game in Wisconsin’s favor.

“I speak as a friend,” Ryan said. “I’m a good acquaintance of John’s. I like John. So, believe me, I’m not (criticizing). But, boy, Booker, he’s an elite player.”

Congrats

Belated congratulations to ESPN analyst Dick Vitale. His annual Dick Vitale Gala was held on May 7 and raised more than $6.5 million for pediatric cancer research.

Among those that attended were Tampa Bay Buccaneers Coach Bruce Arians, former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz, Baylor basketball coach Scott Drew and aerialists/acrobats Nik and Erendira Wallenda.

Honorees at this year’s gala were Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw, Florida football coach Dan Mullen, Auburn basketball coach Bruce Pearl and ESPN “SportsCenter” anchor Scott Van Pelt.

Vitale works with the V Foundation (named for the late Jim Valvano) in raising funds for cancer research. Over the years the V Foundation has donated more than $55 million for the cause, according to a news release.

“I am ecstatic over the support we have received during this challenging year,” Vitale said in the news release.

More information about the V Foundation, the Dick Vitale Gala or to donate is available at v.org.

Belated happy birthday

To former UK president Lee Todd. He turned 75 on May 6. … To Heshimu Evans. He turned 46 on May 8. … To J.P. Blevins. He turned 42 on May 8. … To Jarrod Polson. He turned 30 on May 8. … To former UConn guard Kemba Walker. The Cat Killer of 2010-11 turned 31 on May 8. … To Jon Hood. He turned 30 on May 9. … To former UConn coach Jim Calhoun. He turned 79 on May 10. . . . To former Missouri coach Kim Anderson. He turned 66 on May 12. … To Nate Sestina. He turned 24 on May 12. … To Keith Bogans. He turned 41 on May 12. … To Quade Green. He turned 23 on May 12. … To Kevin Grevey. He turned 68 on May 12.

Happy birthday

To Merion Haskins. He turned 66 on Thursday. … To Valerie Still. UK’s career scoring leader in basketball turned 60 on Friday. … To John Adams. He turned 78 on Saturday. … To SEC Network analyst and former Arkansas guard Pat Bradley. He turns 45 on Sunday (today). … To former Tennessee coach Buzz Peterson. He turns 58 on Monday. … To new LSU women’s coach Kim Mulkey. She turns 59 on Monday. … To Ron Mercer. He turns 45 on Tuesday.

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