Three weeks ago I stopped watching the Browns play. Since then the Browns have won three straight games.
I know in the rational part of my brain that the Browns have been winning because their defense is good, and they’ve received surprisingly good play from their quarterbacks. I stopped watching, but I read Terry Pluto in the Plain Dealer, so I’m up on what’s happening. I know more about Shaun Lauvao’s high ankle health than anyone who is not actually Shaun Lauvao or his family should.
The Browns are winning these games on their own. It has nothing to do with me. I know this. This is a fact. It’s not magic. Superstition is not an actual factor. I am a sane person who is aware that that the TV-watching habits of one guy in Los Angeles cannot affect the performance of professional athletes in Cleveland or wherever on Sundays.
Yet I kind of think I do. I’m sort of convinced that when I watch the team again, I will jinx its winning streak, and the Browns will lose and all sorts of horrible things will happen. For example: the trainers will misplace Shaun Lauvao’s high ankle.
Psychologists have names for this.
The Gambler’s Fallacy is the tendency to think that future probabilities are altered by past events when in reality they are unchanged. In this case I think the fact that I have not watched the last three games gave the team good luck, and I can keep making that good luck happen in future games.
There is also the Hot Hand Fallacy, which is the belief that a person who has experienced success has a greater chance of further success in additional attempts. Because I believe I am at least infinitesimally responsible for the Browns’ three-game winning streak, you could say I have the Hot Hand Fallacy, too.
I have also fallen under the spell of the Illusion of Control. This is the tendency to overestimate one’s degree of influence over other external events. If you saw “Silver Linings Playbook,” the Robert De Niro character exhibits Illusion of Control.
UPDATE: Alert reader Meredith notes that I left out Magical Thinking, which is is the identification of causal relationships between actions and events where scientific consensus says that there are none. For good examples of Magical Thinking, see: Washington, DC.
So not only am I aware that I do not affect the actual outcomes on the field, I am also aware of the biases that I’ve fallen prey to, probably more than most people because I happen to find biases fascinating.
And now to answer the question I know I will get this week from my Browns fan friends: No, I am not watching Sunday’s game against the Lions.
First of all, I made a vow not to watch the Browns again until they were two games over .500, and I am going to stick with it.
Plus I don’t want to screw up the team’s luck. I know. I know. But it’s where I’m at right now. I feel like my friends who are Browns fans who know I haven’t been watching the games are counting on me not to watch, and I don’t want to disturb their illusion of control, because maybe collectively all of our illusions of control really can make a dif…no! That’s crazy.
But I am definitely not watching the Browns-Lions game.
Because…promises and luck.
Joe Donatelli is a lifelong Browns fan and the author of Full Griswold: Stories from a Honeymoon in Italy.