To compete at a professional level, athletes must be in peak physical and mental form. Not only perfecting their bodies in the gym, but studying their sport in the classroom. These men and women prepare their brain to dominate opponents, visualizing a glorious victory. But, aside from the physical and mental aspects of sports, there is another element that we have to consider: the spiritual!
No, we aren't talking about organized religion, we are talking about the crazy superstitions that these professional athletes still carry-out. Whether it's keeping a hot streak going, an odd pre-game ritual, or just an absolutely ridiculous habit, superstitions and athletes go together like the New England Patriots and cheating! Cross your fingers and hold your breath for these 20 superstitious athletes with the craziest sports rituals. Every sport has its own set of crazy superstitions. In hockey, there's a theory that players should never touch a conference trophy, because it will give them bad omen in the Stanley Cup Final. There are some basketball players who keep their same underwear or socks from their high school days. There are football players who have to throw up before every game. Some athletes just can't go on without performing these.
20 Serena Williams: Smelly Socks
Tennis is all about sticking to a routine, freeing up your mind, acclimating your body, and lasering your focus on the match. Some pros bounce the ball on the court a specific number of times before they serve, others may spin their racket for a dedicated number of rotations. But, when it comes to on-the-court superstitions, topping the list, over Rafael Nadal's odd water bottle habit, let's examine Serena Williams sock ritual! .
Arguably one of the best tennis players ever, both men's and women's, Williams doesn't like to change up her socks during tournaments.
That's right, from the first-round to the finals, Serena rocks the same, smelly socks the entire match. What? Running around in the heat then stopping on a dime must burn wholes through those things? We don't know if she washes them or not, but if she doesn't, those socks must reek!
19 Patrick Roy: Goal Shrinking
Hockey goalies have a special relationship with the net. It's their home on the rink, and their job is to let nothing inside the bars. Former NHL goalie, Patrick Roy, took this idea and multiplied it by a hundred as he had some of the oddest rituals within the crease.
Before the game, Roy would skate backwards from center ice, slowly making his way back to the net, turning around to face it at the last second.
Per Roy, this helped "shrink the goal," giving him a new perspective.
That's just the tip of 'The Wall's' rituals. He had to step over the lines on the ice and never swept snow into his own net. The latter due to his superstition that nothing should be allowed into his goal. Finally, Roy was known to talk to the pipes during breaks in play. I guess it must get lonely back there! Crazy, but it must have worked since the he's in the Hall of Fame!
18 Les Miles: Grass Eater
Former LSU Tigers coach, Les Miles, takes more of an Eastern Philosophy on the gridiron. On multiple occasions, the camera has caught Miles ripping out a chunk of grass (or sometimes turf) and eating it, becoming one with sod, even using the taste and texture of the field to gauge the conditions.
After getting caught munching on the grass in 2010 during a game against Alabama, Miles' habit sparked the internet's curiosity. He dove into his ritual during an interview with 104.5 The Zone.
"I have a little tradition that humbles me as a man, that lets me know that I’m a part of the field, a part of the game and it’s the very bottom as well as the very top and it could be all over the Internet, but, you know what? You should have seen some games before this. I tell you one thing. The grass at Tiger Stadium tastes best.”
Currently, the former coach isn't snacking on the field as much, as he's been landing film roles left and right!
17 Wade Boggs: Chicken Man
All athletes have their go-to meal before competing. Even the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors need their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before gametime! But, one of the oddest pre-game snacks comes courtesy of Hall of Fame baseball player, Wade Boggs.
He isn't nicknamed 'The Chicken Man' for nothing.
Enjoying the savory poultry dish is one thing, but he absolutely obsessed over chicken. We'll let Boggs take it from here.
"It started in '77. I had a minor league budget and a growing family to feed. Chicken was cheap and I really felt better eating lighter food rather than a lot of heavy meat and gravy. Then I noticed my batting average going up. Ever since I've been a `chicketarian.'"
It's even been rumored that he ate a whole chicken before every game! If they ever make another documentary on Boggs, the marketing reps have no other choice than to name it, Fair or Fowl!
16 Bruce Gardner: Toilet Stick
Former NHL forward, Bruce Gardiner, had an average career on the ice, but nothing to gawk at. Really, his only interesting statistic is that he scored the first goal in Columbus Blue Jackets history., But, after officially retiring from competition in 2005, he still makes headlines with his odd pre-game stick ritual.
Gardiner dunked the blade of his hockey stick in the locker room toilet before every game.
The whole tradition started when he was in a slump back in 1996, and asked veteran teammate, Tom Chorske, for some advice. Chorske responded by telling him to teach his stick who's boss by giving the wood a 'swirly.' Gardiner kept the ritual going part-time, only employing it when he was on a cold streak, saying in 2007, ""You tape it, you dunk it, and you don't touch it. I'd do anything for a couple of goals."
15 Jason Terry: Odd Pajamas
At 40 years old, NBA guard Jason Terry, is still bringing home a paycheck from the league every week. The former Sixth Man of the Year has spent the last few years as a journeyman, bouncing from team to team, helping younger stars both on and off the court. With such a long, prosperous basketball career, we have to wonder: what's Terry's secret?
Well, "JET" doesn't have much of a secret at all, but more of a superstition. Every night before a game, he wears his opponent's shorts to bed.
No, not the shorts that you buy off the shelves. These are authentic game shorts of his rivals that he rocks as pajamas. Terry has always been known to be superstitious, even removing his tattoo of the Larry O'Brien Trophy from his arm, but his bedroom attire shocks us the most!
14 Glenn Hall: Game-Time Nerves
"Mr. Goalie" himself, Glenn Hall, is an absolute legend on the ice. He rarely missed a game, protected the net without a mask, and even was the first successful goaltender to utilize the "Butterfly" technique. Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1975, the man was a pure hockey hero. But, his historic career was filled with odd rituals both on, and off the ice.
Hall would pray to the Hockey Gods and skate circles around his net in warm-ups. But, in his later years, he would do something even more bizarre: throw-up before every game. That's right, Hall thought he played better on an empty stomach, and many of his teammates even encouraged the unhealthy behavior. In 2011, he addressed the rumors in an interview with The Province.
"I had set a standard and didn’t want to play below that standard. I think my last year of junior I did it a couple of times. I felt if I wasn’t wired, I wasn’t playing well. I’d get up in the morning and I couldn’t wait for game time."
13 Steve Finley: Healing Minerals
For those of you that are unaware what pseudoscience is, prepare to have a quick lesson. But first, we start from the beginning with two-time MLB All-Star Steve Finley. The five-time Gold Glove winner was an above average center fielder during his near two-decade career, even playing in an integral role in the Diamondbacks' World Series run back in 2001. How did Finley remain so consistent? Well, with the help of healing minerals of course.
He would carry around a pouch of these things even stating, the minerals are a "layer of protection against many harmful external energy intruders that attack our bodies on a daily basis."
His whole testimony is utterly ridiculous. But, many experts say the mental belief that the rocks actually work cause a positive reaction in the individual, giving them the confidence and reassurance to perform better during game-time. Forget about crystal balls and Tarot cars, if Finley is the crowning example, healing minerals must work (not)!
12 Richie Ashburn: Cuddles With Bats
For baseball players, their ashen bats are an extension of their own body. With one smooth motion, they use all of their force to propel the wood through the zone, hoping to make contact with the ball. Therefore, treating your bat properly is of the most importance. Outspoken Dodgers star, Yasiel Puig, is known to lick his bat, trying to gain its energy. But, it's former two-time NL Batting Champion, Richie Ashburn, that makes our list of bat-related rituals.
Ashburn took taking care of your bat to a whole new level. Keeping with superstitious traditions in the MLB, if he was on a hot streak at the plate, Ashburn would curl up with a nice glass of hot cocoa, and cuddle with his bat at night. Aw, how romantic! The six-time All-Star stated after retiring, "I’ve been in bed with a lot of old bats in my day.”
11 Mike Bibby: Fingernail Clipping
Mike Bibby was a consistent force on the court during his fourteen-year NBA career. While he may not have received the accolades that many superstars do, Bibby was known for being a great facilitator that could also score during crunch-time.
With the pressure on the court though, he developed an odd habit of chewing his fingernails on the bench and during timeouts, prompting Bibby to have one of the weirdest in-game NBA rituals: clipping his nails.
Obviously, it's important for NBAers to take care of their hands, especially for someone like Bibby who is a floor general, but his habit got a little excessive. During any break in the game, assistants would hand Bibby his nail shears, as he would give himself a manicure from the sidelines. Truly an odd, and sort of gross, sports ritual!
10 Sergio: In-Game Relief
If you thought Bibby's ritual was disgusting, you don't know the half of it! Literally, we've made it to the tenth spot on our athlete superstition list with former Argentinian goalkeeper, Sergio Goycochea. Known as one of his amazing diving saves during penalty kicks, this goalie had an odd secret to his success. While the opponent was lining up their shot from the penalty spot, Sergio was peeing his pants. Yes, before every single penalty kick, the Argentine hero would relieve himself to calm his nerves.
Later in his career, Sergio credited his bizarre ritual to his success in high-pressure situations, saying ""It was my lucky charm and I went before every shoot out. I was very subtle, nobody complained." We've heard rumblings across other sports leagues of similar on-the-field 'accidents,' but nothing to this extreme.
9 Michael Jordan: Tarheel Shorts
The NBA GOAT himself, Michael Jordan, despite being one of the most athletic players in history, still had his fair share of superstitious rituals. Back in college in 1982, the UNC standout led the Tarheels past Ewing and the Hoyas in the National Championship hitting the winning jumper in the closing minutes, writing one of the first paragraphs in his legacy.
Throughout his career though, Jordan held on to this moment from college in an odd way: he wore his Tarheel shorts under his own every NBA game.
Okay, so maybe they were his UNC practice shorts, but MJ thought these would bring him good luck in the NBA. Many people actually believe that this superstition ended the 'short shorts' trend in the NBA, as Jordan had to lengthen his to cover up the Tarheel blue. Who knew this sports ritual would lead to a huge fashion shift in the NBA?
8 John Henderson: Pre-Game Smack
There is nothing like getting psyched up for a football game. There are the inspirational pre-game speeches, excessive hype dances (we are talking about you Ray Lewis), and the occasional odd warm-up routine. Former Jacksonville Jaguar defensive lineman, John Henderson, needed a little extra help from the coaching staff prior to kickoff. The 335 lb. DT would have someone slap him across the face as he prepped to head onto the field!
I'm truly at a loss for words with the two-time Pro Bowlers aggressive ritual. On one hand, he is trying to get pumped up, but on the other, who the hell in their right mind wants to get slapped that hard? Maybe Henderson's obsession with physical violence got a little out of hand, as he was charged with domestic battery back in 2015. The prosecutor dismissed the charges, and he only received a slap on the wrist.
7 Karl Malone: Lengthy Free-Throw Routine
Probably the most useful ritual in sports is the NBA free throw line routine. Whether it's a dribble than spin, bounced-dribble-hesitate, or everything in between, every player has their own unique way to approach the charity stripe. It's actually useful though as the brief 'dance' before the shot helps engage their muscle memory, as they have been doing the same routine for years.
But, sometimes, these routines can get a little excessive.
Karl Malone had a lengthy hesitation before shooting the ball, bouncing several times while the crowd waited in bore.
'The Mail Man' would even deliver a little pep talk to himself as he focused on the basket, but no one knows what he used to say! Some people say it was to honor his daughter, while others think he was just talking himself through the free throw. While he looked like a modern mumble rapper on the court, Malone definitely deserves to be on our list!
6 Kevin Rhomberg: OCD Touching
As we've highlighted throughout this list, many superstitious baseball stereotypes are borderline obsessive, but Kevin Rhomberg's odd habits are definitely OCD. Only in the MLB for a few seasons, the Cleveland Indians left fielder had on bizarre human contact ritual: if someone would touch him, he would have to touch them back! Dubbed with the unwanted nickname "Touch Me," I'm sure the veterans in the clubhouse played a few pranks on the youngster. Tag! You're it!
You're probably thinking, "hey, that's not too bad," but Rhomberg's rituals relieved his anxiety, and 'touching' thing was serious! Even one of his former teammates, Dan Rohn, shed some light on his crazy behavior.
"He looked for me for two hours. I was hiding under desks, in the shower, the bathroom. He couldn’t find me."
5 Caron Butler: Straw Master
Off the court, NBAers have several interesting hobbies. You have Karl Malone the truck driver, Shaq the policeman, and LeBron the wine aficionado. But, one of the oddest NBA hobbies turned ritual was Caron Butler and his love for straws. Yes, you read that correctly: straws! The two-time All-Star would reportedly chew on up to 60 straws a day! That's 420 straws a week, and over 150,000 a year. Rumor has it that he could tell the difference between straws, distinguishing the best from the worst.
Although the behavior originated during his teenage years as a way to cope with anxiety, it became a habit into the pros. Butler took his ritual to the court, even chewing on straws on the bench and during games. The NBA cracked down though, and in 2010, informed the former UConn star that he could not chew his beloved plastic anymore, citing "it's a safety issue, period."
4 Turk Wendell: Teeth Brushing
One of the oddest baseball routines of all-time goes to former relief pitcher, Turk Wendell. Among his crazy superstitions were that he made the umpire roll the ball to the mound instead of throwing it. He would also wave to the center fielder in between innings, and wait for him to wave back. On top of all that after leaving the mound, he would jump over the lines, making sure to not step on them and cause bad luck. But, the craziest ritual of all involves Wendell's intense teeth brushing habit.
After chewing exactly four pieces of black licorice between innings, Wendell would spit it out, and proceed to intensely brush his chompers in the dugout.
Why? Well, we have to assume out of superstition, and the fact that almost no one likes the aftertaste of black liquorice in their mouth. He even has baseball card that would dentists everywhere proud.
3 Moisés Alou: Peeing On Hands
Moisés Alou had a storied 19-year career in the pros, winning two Silver Slugger awards, and notching six trips to the All-Star Game. Alou was the ultimate force in the batter's box. Unlike his peers though, the World Series Champion didn't use batting gloves! So, how did he prevent blisters while maintaining his grip? Alou's secret was to urinate on his hands in order to toughen them up.
The old peeing ritual is not exclusive to Alou either. Former Yankees catcher, Jorge Posada, came out an said, ""You don't want to shake my hand during spring training." Pitcher Kerry Wood even used to use his urine to heal aching blisters. But, the peeing ritual doesn't work out for everyone. Dodgers pitcher , Rich Hill tried to remedy the blisters on his hands with his urine back in 2016, but it didn't seem to work out!
2 Jason Giambi: Gold Thong
With 162 games in the regular season, it's tough for baseball players to remain consistent throughout the year, and many succumb to the dreaded slump. Those few weeks, months, or even years where nothing seems to be going their way can be become draining on the mind. They question their fundamentals, their equipment, and even their attire.
But, with MLBers being a special breed, they have developed a few superstitious rituals to emerge from their drought, and none are more odd than Jason Giambi's gold thong!
That's right. The former AL MVP used to rock a tiger-striped gold thong when he was in a batting slump. A little bizarre, but not uncommon. What's ridiculous though is that the underwear helped his teammates get out slumps too, with some of them even trying it on for themselves. Now that is team bonding!
1 Lyoto Michida: Urine For A Treat
Former Light Heavyweight UFC Champion, Lyoto Machida, tops are list of crazy sports rituals, and let me say, urine for a treat! The Brazilian-born fighter dominated the UFC, combining his elusive fighting style with accurate counter-striking ability to a respectable 23-8 career record. But the real secret to his success may just be his odd habit of drinking his own pee every morning! In a 2009 interview with Brazilian fight magazine, Tatame, "The Dragon" elaborated on his daily breakfast!
"My father does that for a long time and bring it to us. People think it’s a joke (laughs). I never said it in the United States because I don’t know how the fans will react (laughs). I drink my urine every morning like a natural medicine.”
Fellow fighter, Luke Cummo, used to drink his own pee as well, claiming that the minerals, hormones, and nutrients in his waster that helps with muscle production and recovery.
I think I've gagged like eight-times since finishing this entry! Honestly, the thought of these fighters drinking warm, foul-smelling urine, makes me want to puke. Maybe that can become my crazy writing ritual!