Superstition Can Be Scientific
So I’m watching the Oklahoma City Thunder play the San Antonio Spurs yesterday. Very glad we won by the way; shout out to the squad for doing their thing to tie the series up.
While I’m watching the game, I’m texting the homie Erik, who proclaims that he has been unable to watch the game and could only listen to it on the radio. Now by this time, the Thunder are gaining separation by blowing out their opponent, winning by as much as 27 points. At this very moment, Erik walks in his house and begins to watch the game on TV.
At the very moment he starts to watch the game, Spurs start making a comeback. The Spurs actually went on 10-0 run at the same moment he began to watch. Was this a coincidence?
Well, maybe. But maybe it wasn’t. After all, according to the Butterfly Effect (aka The Kaos Theory), if a butterfly flaps its wings, it could cause a typhoon on the other side of the planet. But is this true (especially when it comes to influencing the outcome of basketball games)? Is it possible that the fact that Erik was watching the game actually influenced the outcome? Is it even possible to find out?
It actually can be tested using the most important method to confirm theories: the Scientific Method. The Scientific Method is a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. The Scientific Method is a procedure consisting of systematic observation, measurement, experimentation, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses. The hypothesis, in this case, would be “does Erik watching the game influence the outcome?”
To test it, I challenged Erik to turn the channel and, if the Thunder took another commanding 30-point lead, that this is evidence that he potentially affected the scoring in the game. Scientifically, it is impossible to tease out bias (or, other factors that may contribute to the outcome being measured). However, if your team begins to lose when watching the game, and your team begins to win when not watching the game, you cannot rule out the possibility that such superstitious behavior may actually be causal.
To much chagrin, Erik (being Erik) refused to even test the theory, even though doing so could have cost the team a victory. The fact is, it doesn’t hurt to test it. To all you skeptics out there that feel that superstitions are ridiculous, impossible, and even illogical, a rationally-minded prudent fan would, at minimum, test your impact on a given game. Go ahead, mute the TV, sit in that uncomfortably awkward position, take a sip of your warm beverage after every team rebound. In other words, it doesn’t hurt to try. In the words of Budweiser, “It’s only weird if it doesn’t work.”