Women’s Softball and the Collaborative Spirit of Magic

  • Timothy de Waal Malefyt Clinical Professor of Marketing at Gabelli School of Business, Fordham University
  • Johnson Peter Clinical Associate Professor of Marketing at Gabelli School of Business, Fordham University


All major US sports are high in superstitions because motivation to win is high and the game outcome is uncertain; athletes purportedly engage in superstitious behavior to reduce anxiety, build individual confidence and cope with uncertainty. Sports is also a male domain, where men traditionally display individual, masculine achievement. We observe magic rituals practiced in a women’s college softball team not as a means to overcome anxiety or display individual prowess, but as a way to blend creative individuality into the unity of the social whole, which manifests as a social narrative of the team. We analyze individual and team magic in two forms –institutionalized magic and individual superstitions – which build idiosyncratic behavior into a collective team dynamic. As such, this essay shows how women use magical power collaboratively. Women on a college softball team partake in practical work and magic, such that participating in magic through empathy and sensing one another creates team identity, allowing the reimagination of forms and outcomes.

Author Biographies

Timothy de Waal Malefyt, Clinical Professor of Marketing at Gabelli School of Business, Fordham University
Timothy de Waal Malefyt is a Clinical Professor of Marketing at Gabelli School of Business, Fordham University. Previously, he held executive positions at BBDO and D’Arcy advertising agencies, where he applied cultural approaches to consumer research for developing brand strategies. He has co-edited and co-authored 5 books including his latest, Women, Consumption and Paradox.  
Johnson Peter, Clinical Associate Professor of Marketing at Gabelli School of Business, Fordham University
Peter Johnson is a Clinical Associate Professor of Marketing at Gabelli School of Business, Fordham University. Previously he was in private investing and an executive in digital marketing companies including US Interactive and Modem Media. His published research includes organizational improvisation and the antecedents of market orientation.    


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