Believing …

When I was a kid I genuinely thought I could influence the outcome of sporting events.  I used to watch a lot of test match cricket, and if England were doing badly, for example needed to take a wicket, I would convince myself I needed to leave the room for 5 minutes and it would happen. Sometimes it did happen, and if I had been having a wee when I was out of the room, I believed it was my wee that forced the outcome.

By the time of Headingley, 1981, when England did the unthinkable and came back from the brink to beat Australia I was drinking tea by the bucketful.  I did it for my country, pissing like a racehorse throughout the day, and I have to say I felt rather peeved when Botham and Willis grabbed all the headlines the next morning.

Same thing used to happen with football.  If it was a penalty against my team, I would shout loudly to anyone that would listen, “He is bound to score! 100% guaranteed!”, whereas if it was my team taking it, I would proclaim “He’s bound to miss! He never scores penalties!”.  This reverse psychology occasionally worked in effecting the right outcome.  Onlookers thought I was a fool.  “You were wrong!” they would shout.  But I knew they were just idiots.  Little did they know that I was applying reverse psychology to the penalty kickers to influence the outcome my way.  Of course sometimes I failed, and the result went against my team and I felt sick, but at least I looked knowledgeable by making the right call.  

The worst thing was if it was a big sporting event of national importance where I was no longer in control.  If it was perhaps a big Euro Finals game, maybe a semi-final match for England, where people generally not associated with football would become interested as the whole country readied itself for the match, and many people not normally associated with football would often say “Oh England should win comfortably tonight against Germany”, and I would look on angrily, muttering under my breath that this cockiness and arrogance was misplaced and was going to get us knocked out.  I would reply with a barrage of reasons why we would lose in the hope of cancelling out their ill-educated and misplaced optimism.  If England won, I had done it, if they lost, it was those cocky amateurs that spoiled the party for the entire nation.  

To think Stuart Pearce blasted high and wide because I hadn’t had time to shout “He will miss!”. He was crying and it was all my fault.  I barely slept a wink that night through guilt.  40+ years of hurt and still counting …

I know it feels silly and stupid but I still do it.  When Alastair Cook carried his bat through to 160 not out on Saturday, I was watching the match on my iPad.  I have a large wired HD TV in the lounge, but Sunday morning I felt I should continue to watch the final day on my 10″ iPad via dodgy WiFi.  I convinced myself that this was just silly superstition, and I settled down in front of the TV, only to see England fall apart, 5 wickets for 60 runs or something, who cares.  We lost, and I scolded myself, ‘If only I had watched on my iPad’ it might have been different.

Now let’s pause for a moment at this point and reflect on this.  I am fairly sure every single one of us would agree that such behaviour is misguided, illogical, juvenile and rather silly.  We’re all agreed, right?  We’ve probably all done it and then reprimanded ourselves afterwards. No?  Just me? 

I think today the establishment have a name for this condition.  I don’t know what it is, but it’s almost certainly a mental flaw, something related to paranoia perhaps.  To actually believe you can influence the outcome of an event 3,000 miles away in Ahmedabad from your settee in Buckinghamshire, simply by thought alone makes you look a bit silly. Fact.

I know it’s ridiculous, and as I get older it becomes even more pathetic.  It’s kind of endearing when an 8 yr old girl closes her eyes, crosses her fingers and makes a wish, but when a middle aged adult does it, it suggests mental health problems.  

And that’s because it makes no logical sense.  If my neighbour does the opposite to me, do we cancel each other out?  If Germany have 50,000 people doing it but England only have 49,999 people doing it, does Stuart ‘Psycho’ Pearce miss? Of course not.

Call it superstition, call it belief, but whatever it is, it’s certainly illogical.  I mean who do I think I am?  To have such talent I must, by deduction, be at the centre of the universe. I must actually be, or very closely connected to, God. There can be no other explanation unless you can put your faith into something we don’t yet understand. “We don’t know how it works, it just does” some might say, but that kind of suggests there is a God-like person, a superior something that we can’t comprehend so it all comes back to the God argument anyway.

I think I might have mentioned before that I have a problem with religion.  Try as I may I struggle to believe in a monotheistic God.  I’ve tried but I just can’t.  And yet, I look at nature, the wonder and absolute beauty of the universe, the sheer complexity of it all, how everything just works, everything comes together to make the world operate, and I think it can’t be entirely accidental, there has to be something preceding it all, something must be in control.  Yet believing in a monotheistic God doesn’t make any logical sense to me. 

I do admire, and genuinely respect religious people.  It must be nice to have that feeling of being overseen, of being protected.  I worry about death, I think many of us do, but religious people seem to be able to at least find peace with it, reconcile it somehow, and that must be great.  I just don’t know how they do it.  

I think my biggest failing is that when confronted by religion I try to reduce everything down to logic and science instead of just applying faith.  Take prayer.  I’m not sure of the strict OED definition but prayer seems to be about communication with your God, one to one, private communication, but I can’t see past the physics.  I don’t understand how He hears prayers? How does He handle 2 billion people all praying at once?  Do your palms have to be together, fingers pointing upwards? Or can you cross your fingers?  Must your hands be touching?  Must you ‘speak’ your prayer or can you ‘think’ it? And if you can think it, what about all my other not-so-nice thoughts, does He hear those too? Uh-oh.

And how do you sign off from a prayer?  I normally use the word ‘Cheers’ on email but that sounds a bit rude, a bit casual for Him.  And are prayers assessed? Is there a criteria one has to pass or are they all answered?  Actually, I know they’re not all answered because I have prayed and yet Barnsley still lost to Ipswich at Wembley, although I have to admit when Craig Hignett’s goal went in I did for a brief moment think that maybe, just maybe, someone was up there listening.

And what if people involved in a war pray for a successful outcome for their side?  What about people on the other side of the war praying for the opposite outcome?  Are we back to the Germany v England scenario where biggest vote counts?  

I see athletes on the starting line making the sign of the cross.  So how does that work?  What if all 8 people on the 100m start line all pray, who wins then?  And anyway I’ve seen footballers make the sign of the cross as they stepped onto the pitch and they were shit. 

So is there really that much difference in me thinking that having a wee causes a wicket at the cricket, versus me praying for that wicket to happen?

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