“Then you suffer; superstition ain’t the way.”
This post isn’t about “ladders bout’ to fall, thirteen month old baby, broke the lookin’ glass seven years of bad luck, the good things in your past” nor does it have to do with Stevie Wonder in any way whatsoever. It is however about superstition. To be more specific, superstition in sports. There are a lot of sports superstitions. Some tennis players avoid stepping on the court lines when changing sides. A lot of athletes put on the left (or right) shoe first every single time. Some change shoes in the middle of a game if they aren’t playing well. Not shaving when on a winning streak. Many professional bowlers feel they must wear the same outfit for an entire tournament (without washing it) no matter how long the tourney may be. Basketball players take a certain number of dribbles and have a pattern they do with the ball before free throws; volleyball players are similar when they serve. Tiger wearing red on Sundays. Rally caps, rally monkeys, not talking to pitchers during a perfect game, not talking to goalies during a shut out. Jordan always wearing UNC shorts under his actual uniform shorts. Gretzky always tucking one side of his jersey into his pants. Heck, John Henderson get hit in the face by a team trainer before every game until his mouth bleeds. There are tons and tons of them.
The athletes say it helps or hurts your luck, it’s a jinx or a curse, it gives you bad (or good) mojo, juju or karma. But is there any truth behind it?
Honestly I couldn’t care less if there is any truth behind it. I’m just going to share some of my superstitions, both from when I competed in athletics and as a fan now. Maybe at some point down the road we’ll put up a list of the weirdest superstitions among professional athletes – Friday 5 foreshadowing? Maybe.
We’ll start off with the ones from when I competed in sports. I feel the need to first point out that when I was a kid growing up I played almost every sport imaginable. Basketball, baseball, soccer, track, wrestling, etc, etc. In grade school the two sports I played the most were basketball and baseball, but once I started running track in fifth grade I soon started focusing solely on that.
In general I tried to do everything with the left first. I’d put on my left shoe before my right, when I did stretches that involved switching from one side to the other I would stretch the left first. When stepping on to the court/field I would always enter the playing grounds with my left foot first. I don’t know when or why I started doing this but I definitely remember doing it. I’m not even left handed, but in track I was a hurdler and I was a left lead-leg and my left foot was always the first one out of the blocks.
In sports that had jersey numbers, I had a lucky number like most kids did and I always wanted to be number 8. I was born on 1/8/88 at 1:48 pm. so with that many eights I figured there must be something to it. I would also cut my finger nails before every basketball game. In baseball I had a coach that before I was up to bat and while I was on deck he would come up and give me a few tips/reminders and then the last thing he would always say is “you da man!” I think it was a quote from a movie or something, but I always seemed to hit better when he said it and when he was busy talking to another player or couldn’t come talk to me for some other reason I didn’t hit as well. I also (for the short time that I continued to play other sports after starting track) would keep my first ever track gold medal in my bat bag or gym bag.
During my short-lived wrestling career (I was in third grade and weighed about 40 pounds on a good day… no joke) I lost every single match, but in the one match that I lost on points and not by getting pinned, my coach had came up to me beforehand and made me growl/roar like a lion. As it turns out, I continued to grown, roar and snarl throughout the match which led the judges to believe I was trying to bite my opponent and deduct points… so maybe that’s not such a good example. But hey, at least I didn’t get pinned.
When track became the only sports I competed in things picked up a little bit. That’s when I actually started making sure that the left shoe went on first, the left leg went through the shorts first when I put them on, the left arm went through the jersey first. I even had to listen to certain songs while warming up for each events:
110 meter high hurdles: Superstar by Saliva
400/300 meter intermediate hurdles: Last Resort by Papa Roach
Triple jump: Pump It Up by Joe Budden
I would put those songs on repeat while warming up for their respective events. Even in cross country I would listen to Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting by Elton John. That just had to be the last song I listened to before the race though, I didn’t keep it on repeat. Along those same lines I would converse with certain -but not solely those- teammates before events.
110 meter high hurdles: Ryan Rastock
400/300 meter intermediate hurdles: Kelsey Randall (after she graduated it was Dale Sipple)
Triple jump: Craig Barnes
I didn’t have anyone specific I talked to in cross country. I was pretty bad at cross country so I wasn’t as adamant or insistent about the superstitions, though I did still have my left foot be the first to cross the starting line. But who knows, maybe if I had been more habitual with superstitions in cross country I would have been better – though I think working harder in practice would have been more beneficial.
I don’t even think the people ever knew I had this superstition about feeling the need to talk to them before certain events. They may have caught on, but I certainly never told them. In fact that was another superstition I had as an athlete. If I told anybody about the superstition then it wouldn’t work. What “it wouldn’t work” actually meant? I have no idea.
On the other hand my superstitions as a fan I feel the opposite about. The more I advertise them the more effective they are. My basic superstitions have to do with attire. On game day I try to wear the color that the team will be wearing. The Colts for example: when they have a home game I wear a blue Colts shirt or jersey because they will be in blue uniforms and when they have an away game I wear a white Colts shirt or jersey. I know Bryan on the other hand prefers all of his apparel to be the primary color of the team rather than a white or gray.
The more bizarre superstition I have is with numbers. If I put something in the microwave I won’t put it in for 15 seconds, I’ll put it in for 14, 16 or 18 because 14 is Eric Berry’s jersey number and 16 and 18 are Peyton Manning’s college and pro jersey numbers respectively. 45 seconds? No, 44 seconds becuase that’s Dallas Clark. 30 seconds? Nope, 29 or 31 because of Joseph Addai and Donald Brown. It’s not just the microwave though, that’s just an example. If I’m putting gas in my car I don’t aim for the even dollar amount (unless I’m near a number like 16 or 18 then I’ll go for that) but I’ll go for $21.93 because 21 is Bob Sanders and 93 is Dwight Freeney. I also do this when I set my alarm. Do I want to wake up a 9:00? No, I’ll wake up at 8:58 because my lucky number is 8 and 58 is Gary Brackett. And yes, I do this with basically anything that has to do with me picking numbers for something and somehow I think that this is sending good karma-waves to the players or something. I have no idea why I do it or even if I truly believe it somehow has any sort of impact on anything but it doesn’t hurt to try so I do it.
In the end though, I think Stevie Wonder was right. Superstition is simply when you believe in things that you don’t understand.
Let me know in a comment if you have or have heard of any weird or crazy rituals, traditions, superstitions or anything else.
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