Unlike the Biblical Samson, who when his hair was cut lost his epic strength, a little trim seems to give New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick some power. And it is also giving his team some wins as well.
Four weeks ago, Fitzpatrick got a haircut and trimmed his grizzly, Civil War-esque beard. In the three games that have followed, the Jets are a perfect 3-0 and Fitzpatrick, the AFC reigning Offensive Player of the Week, has sparkled. He has been near flawless.
During this three-game stretch with their more suave and less furry quarterback, the Jets are averaging slightly more than 30 points per game, their most prolific stretch of the season. He is 79-for-123 for 930 yards with nine touchdowns and no interceptions during this stretch. His passer rating in all three games has topped triple digits.
Get this man a shaver and see what happens.
Superstitions in sports are nothing new. Come the postseason, playoff beards are the norm in hockey and now baseball. Pregame meals are rarely deviated from for fear of awakening a curse. And hockey players in the postseason are notorious for not changing their underwear. Superstitions are here and can be a comfort to an athlete.
All of which makes Fitzpatrick's decision to do something drastic to himself, in this case shaving his storied beard, followed by a run of success all the more against conventional norms. It is the anti-superstition.
"There are many superstitions in sports, and athletes act on them all the time, often falsely attributing some quirky action to success. And when they get confirming evidence because the odd ritual works after success, they often make attribution errors that have no basis in reality. In fact, you see this in all areas of life," said Dr. John F. Murray, a licensed clinical and sports psychologist, who developed The Mental Performance Index. He is a highly regarded author and speaker on the mental side of sports.
"Hundreds of years after the scientific revolution combined reason with evidence and solid hypothesis testing, I would venture to say that the vast majority of people (athletes included) still think pre-scientifically, drawing erroneous conclusions all the time about causality. Ryan trimmed his beard and the Jets won three in a row. Wow. I can think of 765 things more influential in Jets success than a clean shave with a,Harry's razor.
"Do you see what I mean? Mankind still has one foot in the stone age when it comes to sound thinking."
Earlier this week, Jets head coach Todd Bowles joked that Fitzpatrick should shave off the entirety of his beard and see what happens. It is a tempting notion, especially since his stellar numbers in what is arguably the best three-game stretch of his NFL career.
"Nobody wants that. I don’t want to go back to baby face," Fitzpatrick said. "We’re going to keep it like it is."