Superstitions: silly rituals or keys to success

By on October 2, 2003

The sports world is full of crazy athletes. Whether it is John Rocker lashing out with racial slurs, Jeremy Shockey dropping sexual negativities, or Bill Romanowski punching a teammate in the face, athletes are a different breed. These gifted individuals thrive on accomplishments that are achieved only on the playing field.

It does not matter if the field is a baseball diamond, a football field, a basketball court, or a hockey rink. Every athlete in every sport strives to be the best athlete he or she can be. In this attempt to become a stellar performer, athletes will do anything to be on top of their game.

This includes rituals which seem crazy to most observers. However, these rituals are engrained into the athlete’s way of life. Not only do the players perform them, they truly believe that these acts allow them to execute to the best of their ability.

There are many players who play in Major League Baseball who have ridiculous superstitions. One that stands out above all others is Nomar Garciaparra of the Boston Red Sox. When leaving the dugout, Nomar must step on each step with both feet. When out in the field, he frequently removes his glove, smells the inside, his hand, and then puts the glove back on.

When batting, he is out of control. After every pitch, he must step out of the batter’s box, adjust each batting glove, give each of them a tug, and touch his nose. When he steps back into the batters box, he carefully digs each foot in one at a time, taps his toes, and shifts his weight back and forth from one foot to another.

While some people say this is uncalled for, they are actually crazy for looking at his actions this way. A career .323 batting average speaks for itself.

Former Quinnipiac, and now Philadelphia Phillies’ pitcher Turk Wendell, has his fare share of superstitions also. Every time he pitches, the right fielder must tip his hat. This superstition once caused a baseball game on our own diamond to be delayed fifteen minutes because the fielder forgot to tip his hat before the inning started.

Wendell also brushes his teeth and chews licorice between innings, along with throwing down the rosen bag, which pitchers use to get a better grip on the ball, instead of simply dropping it. Sharing a superstition with many other baseball players, he will never touch the first and third base lines when entering or leaving the field.

Football players have certain superstitions too. On my high school football team, there was a green shirt that was worn by one senior every year. This was no ordinary green shirt. It was the game shirt of a legendary running back that played for the team in the 70’s. This shirt was so old it was practically falling apart.

The material was worn out to the point it was almost transparent. Being able to wear the shirt was an honor. Every player who wore it made big plays. This superstition of wearing a certain shirt under the pads on game day is very common. Another one is not wearing a shirt at all. No matter what the temperature, certain players will never put a shirt on under their pads.

Others will never wash their girdle, the piece of fabric that holds the hip pads and tailbone pad in place. Either way, these are just some of the crazy superstitions of football players.

Hockey players are blessed with their own unique actions. Some will never wash their gloves or other equipment that they use in games. Many will never wear a full-face shield or mouth guard, sacrificing their own safety. When it comes time for the playoffs, countless hockey players will grow what is called a playoff beard. Some need to use the same stick all the time.

Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky exemplified this. He always used the same type of stick and gloves. He never had his hair cut while on the road. His equipment was put in his bag the same way after every game. Gretzky always tucked the right side of his jersey into his paints, leaving the rest to hang out. Before every game, he would drink a Diet Coke, a glass of iced water, a Gatorade, and then another Diet Coke.

Steve Larmer, of the Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers, chewed thirty sticks of gum during each game.

Basketball players participate in these rituals just as much as other athletes do. Some wear a certain shirt underneath their jersey, similar to football players. Others will tie their shoes in a specific order, left then right or right then left. This is also carried over into putting on their shorts and jersey. Some need a headband, others a wristband, whether it is on the wrist or pushed up to the forearm.

One Quinnipiac basketball player said he wears his high school game shorts underneath his Q.U. game shorts. While these basketball superstitions are not as numerous as in other sports, they are the only ones that could be identified.

While there are many other sports left unmentioned, the athletes of those have their own superstitions, too. No matter what the sport, athletes have certain beliefs or rituals that must be done. If they are not done, the athlete is not mentally ready to mentally perform. Be sure never to question players’ superstitious actions, even if they may seem childish or stupid to the fan watching the game. For most athletes, these superstitious acts mean the difference between making the play or falling behind and winning or losing the game.


About William Dawson