George Gmelch’s piece Baseball magic is a classic example of a piece that makes you rethink what you thought you knew. I would have never linked a relationship between religion and the practices that baseball teams or individuals have on a day to day basis. It has now become evidently clear that these practices, whether it be eating in a particular spot every day, or going to church faithfully every Sunday, have tremendous effects on our everyday lives. Gmelch who presents his case with American baseball players, shows the various taboos and fetishes that these players have and they believe that these rituals are linked to their winning or losing a game. The most alarming factor is that these professional players forget or rather ignore the fact that they possess true abilities and skill, which is how they got onto the team in the first place. They idolize prized possessions that they believe give them luck and the lack of these rituals or failure of these rituals does not stop them, but merely makes them create new ones to fit their needs.
It is as if their skills got them into the sport, but their rituals keep them playing. In a way these players are not too far from me in my everyday life. If I studied in a particular way and earned good grades, it is more likely that I will continue this same way of studying until it fails and then I would create another one to fit my needs. Rituals seem to be a common trend with the human species, it is how we make sense of the unknown. Throughout Gmelch’s ethnography the most common trend that these players had was that they were trying to have control over what they deemed uncontrollable.
These rituals gave them stability and hope that they would have some effects over reality and even if their rituals were not directly related with winning or losing the game, the fact that they might be able to control the outcome of the game was still thrilling. Overall, we all part take in rituals on a daily basis, whether it be brushing our top teeth before the bottom, touching the wall before you leave your room, or never leaving the house without checking the stove. All these things help us cope with the day to day uncertainties of life. It is not the power of the rituals that make us satisfied, but the power we give to the rituals that make us feel like we are in control and are masters of uncertainty.
Courtney from Study Moose
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