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WSU Newsline: Yankees show a costly side of superstition
Thursday, June 5, 2008 10:17 AM

The scripts are available for printing and for sound bite identification.

Background:

The New York Yankees made news this spring by spending about $50,000 to extract from the new stadium's concrete a David Ortiz shirt planted by a Boston Red Sox-obsessed construction worker hoping to hex his team's arch rivals. Wichita State University sports psychologist Greg Buell looks at the issue of superstition and when it becomes harmful.

Voice wrap:

Announcer: The New York Yankees made news this spring by spending about $50,000 to extract from the new stadium's concrete a David Ortiz shirt planted by a Boston Red Sox-obsessed construction worker hoping to hex his team's arch rivals. To most people, spending that kind of money over a superstition or hex seems a bit extreme, as Wichita State University sports psychologist Greg Buell explains.

Buell: "To me, spending that kind of money to excavate a shirt seems silly. But I bet they were covering their bases there. In fact, you know anybody who is susceptible to superstition is very relieved. And honestly, it's a wonderful PR move."

Announcer: It turns out that the Yankees sold the excavated shirt for $175,100 in an auction for the Jimmy Fund, a cancer charity and the official charity of the Red Sox. This is Joe Kleinsasser at Wichita State University.

Sound bite #1

Buell explains superstition. The sound bite is 13 seconds and the outcue is "to it."

Buell: "You explain superstition by coming to understand that sometimes routine or ritual becomes superstition if people associate magical meaning or magical outcomes to it."

Sound bite #2

Buell gives some of the more common superstitions. The sound bite is 12 seconds and the outcue is "kinds of things."

Buell: "Obvious ones are what, the number 13 is bad, walking under a ladder isn't good, step on a crack you break your mother's back. We all kind of giggle and have a good time with those kinds of things."

Sound bite #3

Buell looks at the difference between routines and superstition. The sound bite is 20 seconds and the outcue is "for an o-fer."

Buell: "An easy explanation would be to say routines are good, superstitions bad. (An) example would be, a routine might be how I stretch, how I breathe, how I focus. Superstition would be, 'Gee, I got two hits out of three at bats, so I'm going to wear the same socks every day until I go for an o-fer.' "

Sound bite #4

Buell looks at the issue of superstition and when it becomes harmful. The sound bite is 23 seconds and the outcue is "various steps."

Buell: "Most of the time superstitions are fun, but they can become harmful if in fact something goes wrong and that throws you totally off your game or off your preparation. Let's say, gosh, I have a complicated thing that takes two hours, but the bus runs late, so darn it, I feel like I'm not ready for this game because I didn't get my two hours to do my various steps."

Sound bite #5

Buell says most superstitions are relatively harmless, but magical thinking can be the gateway to mental illness. The sound bite is 16 seconds and the outcue is "with reality."

Buell: "For the most part, superstitions can be harmless. However, if you engage often in magical thinking, that can be the gateway to mental illness. If you're all wrapped up in dealing with those sorts of issues, you become out of touch with reality."

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Contact: Greg Buell, (316) 978-3440 or greg.buell@wichita.edu.