The Paw Print
Right now, my Troy Tulowitzki jersey is draped over a chair in my room and it will stay there for as long as possible. Why? Because I’ve determined that the placement of my jersey affects the Rockies performance on the field. Drape it over the chair and they win. Place it anywhere else and they lose. To me, it’s just that simple. I am superstitious.
In sports culture, it is not uncommon for athletes, journalists, and fans to practice ritualistic behaviors for the good of their team. These superstitions vary by sport and each athlete may have his very own “good luck” routine.
Many athletes have a ritual that they follow every game. This could involve their pregame meal or how they get dressed. Some athletes eat the same thing before every game, such as a chicken dinner or a mini box of Raisin Bran.
Many must also put on their gear and uniform in the same order. Michael Jordan wore his North Carolina shorts under his Bulls uniform during every game. He even asks to wear them during the movie “Space Jam.”
Some athletes are superstitious about their hairstyle and facial hair. For example, they may not shave while their team is on a winning streak. Perhaps the most iconic beard in all of sports today belongs to Brian Wilson, former Giants closer. Wilson’s beard became a key player in the 2010 World Series and had fans chanting “Fear the Beard.”
It seems that the most superstitious sport in the world is baseball. There are so many different superstitions surrounding what you can and cannot do or say when it comes to baseball.
For starters, many batters and pitchers have rituals that they follow every game. Each batter has their own way of preparing for an at-bat. This can include how many times they swing the bat, how they adjust their gloves, the music they walk up to the plate to, and a number of other quirks. Nomar Garciaparra is one of those players guilty of having a complex at-bat ritual, adjusting his gloves multiple times before stepping into the box.
Pitchers also have routines such as chewing on certain foods or items while they pitch, spitting into their hands before a pitch, or drawing something in the dirt before throwing to each batter.
Some players even have obsession with lucky numbers. Former Colorado Rockies player Larry Walker is said to have an obsession with the number 3, revolving everything in his life around the number and wearing jersey number 33.
Then there are things like what Jason Giambi does to break slumps. Whenever Giambi has a hard time hitting, he puts on a golden thong, saying, “It works every time.” If that’s not enough, Giambi also spread the thong around to other slumping players when he was with the Yankees, sharing it with Derek Jeter, Johnny Damon, and Robinson Cano, to name a few. Those who have worn the thong agree with Giambi and claim that it works. I just hope somebody washes it.
Though many superstitions are for the individual, there are some that are widely accepted and practiced by groups of people. For example, before every game, each member of the Notre Dame football team touches a sign that says “Play Like a Champion Today” as they leave the locker room. Football players at Clemson rub Howard’s Rock.
In baseball, it is common practice for players to always avoid stepping on the foul line as they come on and off the field. Also, after each out, the infielders toss around the ball. At this time, the first baseman should not touch the ball and it is always the job of the third baseman to give the ball to the pitcher.
Another superstition shared by players, fans, and commentators deals with no-hitters and perfect games in baseball. If a pitcher is throwing a no-hitter or perfect game, you do not talk about it. Talking about these feats mid-game jinxes any chance of a continuation and costs the pitcher his chance at history.
Fans also participate heavily in the rituals for the love of their teams. One very iconic fan ritual is the rally cap. As a fan, when your team is behind heading toward the end of the game, you are supposed to turn your baseball cap inside out in order to give your team luck.
This football season, Budweiser ran a series of television advertisements highlighting fan superstitions. The ads showed fans crossing their fingers, touching lucky signs, wearing mismatched clothing, facing their beer bottles toward the goalpost during field goal attempts, and even finding someone to jinx a rival fan’s lucky chair, all hoping to bring their team to victory. The ads ended with the sentence “It’s only weird if it doesn’t work”. We are encouraged to do anything we can to help our team and nothing is too outrageous as long as it produces the desired outcome.
Coaches also have weird rituals that they believe help their team. LSU football coach Les Miles eats grass from the field during each game. He said, “[It] humbles me as a man, [and] lets me know that I’m a part of the field and part of the game.” Whatever works, Coach.
However, not all athletes are superstitious. Baseball legend Babe Ruth once said, “I had only one superstition. I made sure to touch all the bases when I hit a home run.” Not everyone puts stock in these superstitions and some athletes even go out of their ways to break all of the commonly accepted ritals.
It’s not hard to see that there are plenty of superstitions related to sports. Some sports and some athletes are more superstitious than others. In the end, however, it’s all just a matter of wanting to see your team succeed. It’s up to you to decide what superstitions you will subscribe to in order to find success.
So I’ll leave you with the same idea that Budweiser left us: when it comes to superstitions, it’s only weird if it doesn’t work.