Football is back! As the NFL season gets underway, fans will be anxiously tuning in each week to see their favorite team and players take to the field for four quarters of good ol’ American football. But does the outcome of those games depend on superstitions followed weekly by devoted fans? Some would say yes.
Do fan superstitions actually help their team? When it comes to luck, are there specific teams that just have it (versus teams who actually have bad luck)? We surveyed over 960 NFL fans to understand seasonal and game-day superstitions better.
It may seem like the more Super Bowl wins a team has, the more “luck” they have. It seems fans agree, as the top five luckiest NFL teams are the New England Patriots, the Green Bay Packers, the Dallas Cowboys, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Kansas City Chiefs. Among all five teams, there have been 19 Super Bowl wins, with the Patriots leading the pack with six wins. In sixth place is the Pittsburgh Steelers, who despite also having six Super Bowl championship wins, have not made it to the big game since 2011.
But it’s not just about the wins, the luckiest teams are also the teams that have been powerhouses or Super Bowl contenders over the past few years. Maybe fans of these teams all stick to their superstitions and know what brings good luck.
On the other end are the unlucky teams, who just can’t seem to catch a break. The number one unluckiest team is the Cleveland Browns, followed by the Detroit Lions and the New York Jets. Maybe fans of these teams need to change up the voodoo and enact some new superstitions to help their teams succeed.
Almost two in five NFL fans admit they’re superstitious when it comes to the NFL season, and 44% have done something specifically to help their NFL team win. Even if their superstition does (or does not) work, one in four say they stick to their superstitions season after season.
Do people share their superstitious acts? Not always, as more than one in 10 keep their superstitions a secret.
When it comes to other major professional sports leagues, the NFL reigns supreme when it comes to superstitious fans. The NFL is closely followed by the MLB, with NHL, NBA, and MLS fans not as prominent in their superstitious beliefs.
It’s not just fans that are superstitious, players can be as well! According to fans, MLB players come in first for superstitious players, followed by players in the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLS.
Maybe you have to wear a specific shirt or jersey each time your NFL team plays, or maybe you have to sit in the same spot every week. According to survey respondents, the majority of NFL fan superstitions revolve around clothing or following a habit when it comes to clothes, such as wearing the same hat or wearing a hat backward.
Some fans might just have a particular piece of clothing or an item they consider to be “lucky,” and generally that’s a jersey (60%). But a small amount (4%) do have lucky underwear they admit to wearing every game day.
Hopefully, they’re washing that lucky pair of underwear in between games. Only 30% of those who wear a lucky shirt each week admit to washing it between games, and on average fans will go 9 weeks without washing that lucky item of clothing. Can’t risk cleansing the good luck!
It’s not all about clothing when it comes to superstitions and luck. Almost one in five have to be sitting in the same spot each time their team plays. One in 10 will bet on their team every game day, and a small amount even purposefully bets against their team (probably in hope of not jinxing anything).
Speaking of jinxing, 17% of fans admit they do something superstitious to try and make the opposing team lose. Maybe they’re not worried about karma?
Watching NFL games can be a great time to get the family together, unfortunately, all those people can disrupt the harmony of good or bad luck for an NFL team. Who do fans believe tends to bring the worst luck for their team? A friend, a spouse, a mother, a father, or a brother are all harbingers of bad luck.
But, it depends on your friend or spouse. A friend and a spouse can also bring good luck, but so can a pet!
When it comes down to it, do fans have any impact on the good or bad luck of a team? One in 10 fans flat out believe they bring bad luck to their team (but will still support them), but one in four believes they bring good luck to their team. Must be nice to be responsible for your team’s luck and winning record!
Sometimes the bad luck brought by others needs to be taken out of the room, and more than one in ten fans have kicked someone out for jinxing a team during a game. Sometimes it’s not always bad luck, but if you’re in the bathroom when someone’s team scores a touchdown 12% of fans will make you stay in the bathroom. Another 12% blame themselves for an NFL team’s performance…and almost one in five have placed all the blame for a loss on another person.
Whatever your superstitious beliefs (and whether you’ll admit them to another), remember that it’s just a game and ultimately the team wins or loses based on their performance on the field. It’s okay to wash your underwear.
In August 2022, we surveyed 962 NFL fans to get their feedback on superstitions and watching NFL games. Respondents were 49% female and 50% male with an age range of 19 to 78 and an average age of 41.
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