Athletes, coaches and fans are a superstitious lot. When the stakes get high, you can't even say the word "jinx" without touching off a flurry of groaning and salt-throwing.
So why, on the eve of their biggest game this year, are fans of the Alabama Crimson Tide tempting fate in this manner?
As you may have heard, there's kind of an important football game happening Saturday in Atlanta. This game will determine the champion of this group of college football teams called the Southeastern Conference, or SEC for short. The winner also plays Notre Dame for the national title.
Just a few implications there, then, when No. 2 Alabama faces No. 3 Georgia. So why is the fan base busying itself by jumping over black cats to get underneath the nearest stepladder? Beats me, but that's precisely what they're doing by buying and selling travel packages to the national title game that hasn't been set yet.
Blame AAA Alabama. It was all their idea. They hedged a bit by making the packages refundable should the Tide not roll the Bulldogs. But the overconfidence is nevertheless evident among devotees of the defending national champs.
Where is it coming from? It's unavoidable, to a point. And the fact that AAA is selling refundable travel packages certainly doesn't mean that the team itself is in some way overconfident.
But it may be the symptom of a deeper condition. Many pundits are already making Alabama (and Georgia) significant favorites in a tilt with Notre Dame. Fans certainly are. In the SEC championship itself, Alabama's favored by a touchdown.
The most important part, of course, is the team itself. And Alabama has been beating the "just another game" drum so hard this week they're going to get themselves hired to Manheim Steamroller. Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but they seem to be a little too relaxed. After all, they know they're favored. To not let that into the conversation, at least publicly, shows a calm that could be a businesslike approach, or could be a lack of motivation (or something that could lead to it).
By calling it "just another game," Alabama is downplaying the nature of the game itself, and tacitly encouraging this overconfidence if not participating in it themselves. In other words, this isn't The Big Game for Alabama. That would be the title game. Just another Saturday, guys. This is what Alabama does. Wink, wink, if you want to start gassing up for The One We Really Care About, why, that's fine by us.
Fans feel that. That's probably why they're buying up the tickets before they hatch. Looks like everyone wants this last Just Another Saturday to be done so they can start planning for real. And if they really take that Just Another Saturday mindset into a game with a foaming-at-the-mouth Georgia team, they might find themselves ringing in Just Another New Year in a few weeks' time.