Ever wonder why some sports athletes and coaches sometimes exhibit strange behaviors before starting the game off? This has been seen not only in baseball but also in basketball and the NHL. It’s what has earned our favorite sportsmen the title of superstitious athletes.
This sort of behavior has become so infectious that even the fans have started doing this as well. We’re not sure exactly why the athletes do this, but it supposedly gives them confidence and helps them perform better during their game.
And believe it or not, this has been happening for more than a century now, and it is still being practiced to this day. The strangest thing about it is that it doesn’t stop with 10 athletes and is barely even a rarity these days.
From eating strange foods to performing unusual dances, wearing the same old raggedy T-shirt that you’ve worn over a decade ago, there is a smorgasbord of superstitious athletes who have displayed unusual characteristics out on the field. So we’ve gone out of our way to list some of them for you in this article.
1. Serena Williams and Her Smelly Socks
There are plenty of things that tennis players do to get them prepped for their playoff. Some bounce the ball around the court several times before serving; others spin their rackets as much as possible. But the preparation ritual practice by Serena Williams is on a whole other level.
Serena Williams is, hands down, one of the most respected and best-performing tennis players we’ve ever seen in general. And that is why it is weird for us to bear witness that she hardly ever changes her socks during tournaments.
It isn’t realistic to perform a tennis match from the first round all the way to the finals as doing so would obviously wear the material out to the extent that it burns holes through them. We’re not exactly sure whether she washes them or not, and if she doesn’t, then that girl has serious sanitary issues.
2. The Cookie-Loving Brian Urlacher
It should really go without saying that Brian Urlacher is hands down one of the most feared linebackers the NFL has ever seen. But that doesn’t mean the guy doesn’t have a sweet spot to him, and that’s not a metaphor either.
Urlacher makes it a habit to start his game off by having a pair of chocolate chip cookies. Given this characteristic, Urlacher would certainly get along very well with another cookie fanatic in Sesame Street’s own Muppet, Cookie Monster.
I guess Brian Urlacher really wants that sweet victory both metaphorically and literally.
3. Michael Jordan’s Lucky Shorts
Well, how do you like that? The greatest basketball player of all time is part of the superstitious club. We didn’t think it was possible, but it is what it is.
As he captained the Chicago Bulls, allowing them to clinch six NBA championships during his sensational career, the then 5-time MVP would wear his lucky University of North Carolina shorts beneath his uniform for each game he played. Back in 1982, Jordan led the UNC to the NCAA championships.
In Jordan’s mind, he believed the shorts gave him confidence and luck. So, to wear those lucky pair, Jordan started to wear longer shorts, evidently inviting a brand-new trend in the NBA community.
4. The Toe-Tapping and Glove-Fiddling Nomar Garciaparra
Nomar Garciaparra’s strange ritualistic behavior was so apparent that even casual fans took notice of it. The former All-Star shortstop would adjust the Velcro of both his gloves a few times rhythmically before starting a pitch. Then, he would move his bat in the style of a windmill while also tapping his shoes simultaneously. But wait, there is more!
He then goes to kiss his bat and then climb a dugout’s stairs before getting into the on-deck circle repeating the at-bat routine repeatedly. Besides that, the shirt that he wears for batting practice remains on even during the game. And if what his brother Michael says is true, touching Norma’s hat would trigger him immensely.
That’s a mighty tall order to fill out to boost your confidence. Still, given the results we got afterward, with Garciaparra posting a career average of .313 over 14 pro seasons, we have nothing to complain about.
5. The Curse of the Bambino
Now this one is pretty ominous, almost like a forgotten X-files case if you want to put it that far. The Boston Red Sox were renowned for winning the 1918 World Series and never go on to win another until 86 years later.
After the Red Sox won their 1918 Cup, all thanks to the brilliant playoff from slugger and pitcher George Herman “Babe” Ruth, the team would go on to experience an unfortunate spell in 1919. This resulted in the Sox selling Ruth to their archrivals, the New York Yankees, at the price of $125,000.
Because of this trade-off, the Yanks would dominate the field for the next several decades while the Red Sox struggled to get over their streak of bad luck until they could finally get their hands on another World Series title. This unfortunate “cursed” would last for another 86 years before it would be broken in 2004 and in 2007 and 2013.
6. Mike Bibby’s Timeout Fingernail Gnawing
Whenever anyone’s nervous, we can’t help ourselves but bite our fingernails, mainly out of instinct. On the other hand, renowned former point guard Mike Bibby is famed for turning this unusual behavior into a form of confidence-booster.
During timeouts, whenever Bibby would sit out on the benches, someone from either the crowd or his team would hand him a pair of nail clippers. This was so he could face his adversities without necessarily using his teeth, whether it resulted in his team losing or winning.
7. John Terry’s Long List
Former England and Chelsea captain John Terry is one of the most superstitious footballers of all time, and he had a list of up to fifty rituals he had to observe before every game.
They included listening to the same CD by Usher in the car, parking in the same spot in the Stamford Bridge car park and sitting in the same seat on the team coach. He would also tie the tape around his socks three times.
Terry would also deliberately avoid all contact with the ball during a pre-match warm-up.
It worked for him. He won five Premier League titles, four FA Cups, the League Cup on three occasions, and the Champions League and the Europa League. He also played for England 78 times.
8. Johann Cruyff and his pre-match rituals
Johann Cruyff may have been one of the most talented footballers ever, but he was also one of the most superstitious. He insisted following a set of rituals before every game, including punching Ajax goalkeeper Gert Bals in the stomach, and spitting a piece of chewing gum into the opponent’s part of the pitch.
For Cruyff the need to observe these rituals was proven in the 1969 European Cup Final. He forgot his gum, and Ajax were beaten 4 -1 by AC Milan.
9. Sergio Goycoches – watering the pitch
Goalkeepers are notoriously eccentric, and none more so than former Argentine shot-stopper Sergio Goycoches. He adopted the habit of urinating on the pitch before a penalty shoot-out as a way of bringing himself good luck.
It all started in the 1990 World Cup quarter-final against Yugoslavia. The match was long and went to extra time and penalties, and needing to go to the toilet, Goycoches had no alternative but to go on the pitch.
It worked, and Argentina won the match, so, when the semi-final with Italy went to penalties, Goycoches did it again.
After that, he would always relieve himself on the pitch before a penalty shoot-out.
10. Kolo Touré – the last man out
Former Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool defender Kolo Touré, now a coach at Leicester City, always wanted to be the last man on the pitch during his playing days.
However, this superstition almost proved costly for both him and his team in a Champions League match against Roma in 2009.
Arsenal ran out onto the pitch at the start of the second half with only nine players. William Gallas was still being treated for an injury in the dressing room, and Touré refused to take to the field before him.
When Gallas eventually re-joined the fray, Touré ran on after him, and was promptly shown a yellow card by the referee for entering the pitch without permission.
Fortunately for him, Arsenal won the match 1 – 0.
Whether we think it’s weird or not, many of the superstitious athletes mentioned above have practices odd rituals that have helped them deal with whatever obstacles came in their way with newfound confidence and laser-focused determination.
Founder and editor of Footiecentral. A voracious reader who loves reading anything and everything related to the history of football. He’s an ardent supporter of Manchester United and rarely misses a match.