Baseball superstitions are silly; don’t slaughter live chickens as a slump buster

It’s Major League Baseball opening day. One of the more nerdy things I do (at least according to Dani) is rotisserie baseball. Before fantasy sports took over the internet and spread to everything from golf to cricket, baseball stats fanatics began trying to out duel each other in a yearly prediction-off. The idea is that 10-13 friends all start with a fixed budget of imaginary money, bid against each other on real players, acquire enough to fill the standard positions on a baseball team and track their stats in multiple categories. I’ve been playing this game for the past 12 years with a group of guys I met in University.

Other baseball nerds.

Two weeks ago we held our league’s auction (referred to by one of the participants as "the best day of the year") which led to this exchange between my family members:
From Dani to Jack (our 2 year-old son): "Daddy owns a baseball team. Not a real one, a fake one. With real players who he doesn’t actually know. Isn’t that silly"
Jack:"Daddy’s silly".

I sort of am.

So are all the baseball superstitions that players subscribe to. When I played real baseball (before my rotisserie days) I tried to avoid stepping on the foul lines for a while (I think I saw that in a movie) but most of the time I forgot. My movie emulation never went as far as a couple of Texas high school players who, according to reports were kicked off of their team for sacrificing chickens in a "bid to boost performance".

The duo, who remained unnamed, were suspended from playing for the rest of the year and disciplined by the Western Hills school officials amid claims they slaughtered the baby birds on a baseball field during spring break.

The pair could face greater recriminations after police in Benbrook, Texas, began investigating the reports of animal cruelty.

Western Hills baseball coach Bobby McIntire said he did not know why the students would behave in such a way, but guessed they were influenced by similar scenes of sporting sacrifice in baseball films "Major League" and "Bull Durham," in which the bloody ritual was referenced as a way of beating a slump in form.

Sure there are lots of pathogen risks associated with handling those chicks but live animal slaughter in the name of high school baseball slump busting isn’t cool.

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About Ben Chapman

Dr. Ben Chapman is a professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. As a teenager, a Saturday afternoon viewing of the classic cable movie, Outbreak, sparked his interest in pathogens and public health. With the goal of less foodborne illness, his group designs, implements, and evaluates food safety strategies, messages, and media from farm-to-fork. Through reality-based research, Chapman investigates behaviors and creates interventions aimed at amateur and professional food handlers, managers, and organizational decision-makers; the gate keepers of safe food. Ben co-hosts a biweekly podcast called Food Safety Talk and tries to further engage folks online through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and, maybe not surprisingly, Pinterest. Follow on Twitter @benjaminchapman.