by Brittany Bell
Photo Courtesy of Twitter
If one were to look at any professional sports team, a common theme may be found: each team has their own set of pre-game rituals that they complete before taking the field, court or ice. Some of these rituals can be quite practical, from specific warm-up drills to a motivating speech by a captain or coach. However, on the opposite end of the spectrum, some teams and athletes choose to participate in more abnormal and bizarre practices.
Superstitions date back to early man and his or her attempt to explain the world. Common secular superstitions include the (supposed) unluckiness of the number thirteen and the luckiness of the number seven. Or, have you ever seen students avoiding the Boston University crest at Marsh Plaza, or even avoided stepping on it yourself (if you want to graduate on time you have!)?
It is the inherent nature of man to assign meaning to something that is seemingly meaningless. The ability to add meaning creates superstitions and rituals, which are a common practice in all levels of sports.
“Some people put all their gear on one side first. Like left shin pad then right. Then left skate then right,” said Steven Rouillard, USHL hockey referee. “I’ve even seen some guy who always touches the red line boards right before puck drop.”
Boston sports fans are familiar with the integration of superstition into play. Both the Bruins and Red Sox grow out their beards during playoff season, hoping it will bring them good luck.
Another famous Boston sports superstition comes from former Red Sox player Nomar Garciaparra. He was known within the MLB and entire baseball world for his odd practices while on the field. Before every pitch of an at-bat, Garciaparra would adjust the Velcro on his batting gloves. He then would tap his toes with his bat before stepping back into the box.
Among his batting ritual, Garciaparra was also very superstitious about changing the shirt he took batting practice in and would not let anyone touch his hat.
Even some of the best athletes that have ever played their respective sports have bizarre rituals of their own.
Wayne Gretzky (the “Great One”) would always put his jersey on the same way and in the same order. He also would drink two Diet Cokes, a Gatorade and some water before every game. The weirdest superstition he had, though, was applying baby powder to the end of his stick before each game.
Michael Jordan would wear a pair of powder blue UNC Tar heels shorts underneath his uniform shorts. And perhaps the most hilarious of rituals, baseball player Jason Giambi and his teammates would wear a gold thong to break out of slumps at the plate, a practice that former Red Sox Johnny Damon endorsed.
Even tennis players get in on the fun. Tennis star Serena Williams won’t change her socks during a tournament, fearing it will bring her bad luck if she does.
Superstitions don’t only apply to players. Coaches also have their own good luck charms, no matter how quirky they may be. Les Miles, the current coach of the LSU Men’s Football Team, eats grass from the field before every football game...and in stressful and high pressure situations, he does it again. He claims that this ritual humbles him as a man and makes him one with the field and one with the game.
Though superstition and ritual plays a large role in the sports world, none of them are actually foolproof. They begin harmlessly, as a weird thing a player decides to do, and with one good game or great play, they become a habit. These rituals become a psychological factor with each athlete and team.
“It's all a head game,” said Rouillard. “It's all about getting yourself mentally prepared and that's what some people have to do to get their minds right.”