We all have our quirks. Our odd little idiosyncrasies. And those strange little things we do because we think that by doing those things, we'll be able to make something break our way. Right? Perhaps we have a certain set routine we follow and never deviate from, when getting ready for work each day – coffee, shower, coffee, clothes. We do these things perhaps because we think we can effect a positive outcome for ourselves, or perhaps because we believe that deviating from them will ensure a negative outcome.
Well, athletes are a strange and superstitious bunch, and are not very different from us. Each of them have their own habits, quirks, and rituals they adhere to. And each of them believe that adhering to their habits, quirks, and rituals will improve their odds of succeeding in whatever sport they're competing in – even though standing on the outside looking in, some of these rituals look completely bizarre, downright freakish, and most of us are left wondering how in the world a ritual involving urine or talking to inanimate objects can have any impact on a game whatsoever.
But then, most of us aren't professional athletes whose very livelihood and earning power depends on us making the perfect pitch, or throwing a touchdown – and if an athlete believes that adhering to a certain ritual gives them an edge, or betters their chances of making the play that needs to be made when it needs to be made, then so it is.
Or to put it another way, we'll borrow a line from that all-time classic film, Bull Durham
"If you believe you're playing well because you're getting laid, or because you're not getting laid, or because you wear women's underwear, then you are!"
With that in mind, let's look at some of the more bizarre superstitious rituals in professional sports...
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25 Alex Ovechkin
Ovechkin is one of the most talented and explosive hockey players in the world. The secret to his success? Intercourse. Ovechkin has said that he feels he plays his best when he's had intercourse before and after a game. Of course, being a multi-millionaire, world famous hockey player probably helps him indulge in that game day ritual. Don't we all wish we could be like Ovi...
24 Caron Butler
Detroit Pistons forward Caron Butler has an unhealthy obsession with Mountain Dew. In a ritual that dates back to his days at UConn, Butler would down half of a 2-liter bottle of the atomic green almost instantly drink before a game, and then at halftime, he'd polish off the other half. It's amazing he hasn't melted into a puddle of toxic, neon green goo yet. With that kind of sugar intake, it wouldn't be surprising if he crashed after 4 minutes.
23 Wade Boggs
Wade Boggs loves two things in his life – baseball and beer. To help him better prepare for the baseball part of his life, Boggs employed several rituals – taking batting practice at exactly 5:17, running sprints at exactly 7:17, writing the Hebrew word “chai” in the batter's box before AB's, and of course, indulging in a meal of chicken before every single game. Word was his wife had dozens of different chicken recipes on hand to keep him happy.
22 Ed Belfour
NHL goalies are probably among some of the strangest athletes on the planet. There is perhaps no other group as collectively superstitious as they are. Eddie “the Eagle” Belfour was one such headcase who had serious territorial concerns over his equipment. Before each season, he would gather his teammates and tell them to never touch his stuff and that if they did, he'd “kill them.” Sounds like a fun conversation.
21 Patrick Roy
Proving that goalies are a strange lot, Patrick Roy had a number of strange superstitions and rituals. And one of these strange rituals included having full out conversations with the goalposts. Yes, that's right, he'd talk to these inanimate pieces of metal. When asked about his conversations with the pipes, Roy simply responded with, “Of course I do, they're my friends.” Of course, given the fact that his “friends” helped enable him to be one of the greatest goalies to ever strap on a pair of skates, who can argue?
20 Jason Giambi
Giambi is a big, lumbering, hulk of a man. But in an interview once, back when he was a ballplayer, he admitted that to bust out of a slump, he would wear a gold thong. His reasoning? It's so uncomfortable to wear, that you're only thinking about that and not about being in a slump. It was apparently so effective the he convinced teammates Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada among others, to give it a shot. The Yankees Capatain wouldn't confirm its effectiveness, but said that he'd been in an 0-32 slump before he strapped on the thong and that night he hit a homer. Go figure.
19 Brian Urlacher
Brian Urlacher was one of the Chicago Bears beasliest linebackers for a long time. He was definitely not somebody you wanted to tangle with because you would most assuredly come out on the wrong end of the deal. So, how did this monster of the Midway prepare for game day? By eating two chocolate chip cookies prior to kick off – not one and not three, it was always two. There is no proof that he ate his pre-game snack while wearing footie pajamas.
18 Moises Alou
In perhaps one of the more disgusting rituals, Moises Alou had an – interesting – way to prepare his body for the game. He believed that to avoid calluses, protect, and harden his hands, he needed to pee on them. That's right, Alou would pee on his hands before every game and not wear batting gloves. Despite the fact that it's believed that urine would more likely soften his hands rather than harden them, it's pretty gross – especially for the guys who shook his hand or high-fived him during a game.
17 Jason Terry
Some cultures believe that if you eat the heart of your enemies, you absorb their strength and power. Houston Rockets guard Jason Terry believes that by wearing the shorts of his enemies to bed the night before a game, he would accomplish the same thing. But they couldn't be any off-the-rack team shorts you could buy at any sports shop. No, they had to be the authentic game shorts of the opposing team. Hey, whatever works, right?
16 Sergio Goycochea
Apparently, goalkeepers in hockey aren't alone in their strange rituals. Soccer goalkeepers are infected with the same sort of superstitious freakery as well. Take former Argentine goalie Sergio Goycocheca for instance. Prior to every penalty kick he faced, Goycocheca would urinate right there on the pitch for all the world to see. Apparently, getting the excess liquid out of his bladder enabled him to be that much quicker in defending the kicks. And given some of his highlight reel saves, there may be something to it, we suppose.
15 Bruce Gardiner
Former NHL center Bruce Gardiner didn't have a very distinguished career. But he'll be forever remembered for giving his sticks the ol' swirly when things weren't going well for him. The ritual started while he was mired in a slump. A teammate told him to dunk his sticks in the toilet, give them a swirly and show them “who was boss.” Gardiner took the advice, had a great game, and from them on, he regularly gave his sticks a swirly to remind them who the boss was. Sort of reminds me of 5th grade. Yikes.
14 Turk Wendell
Most athletes are superstitious by nature but Turk Wendell took it to an extreme. He had a lot of elaborate and insane rituals he performed whenever he played. Among them were his penchant for wearing a necklace made of the teeth and claws of animals he'd hunted and killed, chewing black licorice during innings he pitched, and brushing his teeth between every inning. And those are some of the tamer, less bizarre rituals Wendell engaged in.
13 Lyoto Machida
Moises Alou thought urinating on his hands made them tougher. But MMA fighter Lyoto Machida takes that ritual a step farther by ingesting his own urine. That's right, each and every day Machida indulges in a glass of his own pee-pee, saying that it contains medicinal qualities that help him remain healthy and in peak condition. Thanks, but we'll stick with orange juice and vitamins.
12 Kevin Rhomberg
Rhomberg didn't have a very long or distinguished career in the Major Leagues. But that didn't stop him from leaving an indelible mark on the sport. Rhomberg's superstitious ritual involved only turning left – since baserunners didn't turn right. If he encountered a situation where he'd be required to turn right, he would make a complete circle so that he could get where he needed by only turning left. Another was that whenever somebody touched him, be it a teammate, fan, or perhaps somebody tagging him out on the basepaths, Rhomberg had to make sure he touched them back – because you know, most ballplayers are actually 6 year old boys.
11 Goran Ivanisevic
Former Croatian tennis star Goran Ivanisevic must have felt like he was living in a real life version of the movie Groundhog Day – at least when he was winning in a tournament. As part of his bizarre superstitious ritual, whenever Ivanisevic won a match in a tourney, he would literally repeat the day he'd won. He'd eat at the same restaurants, wear the same clothes, and talk to the same people. Any deviation from that would not be tolerated, though later on, he said that it got to be a bit boring.
10 Larry Walker
Walker was one of the best players in the game in the 1990's. He was a five-tool player who could dominate a game. Walker credits much of his success to the number three – sounds like something straight out of Sesame Street, doesn't it? But he was so obsessed with the number three, that he wore number 33 his entire career, made sure to get a phone number with as many 3's in it as possible, and even got married on November 3rd at 3:33 in the afternoon – though we have to question why it wasn't March 3rd.
9 Wayne Gretzky
Gretzky is universally known as one of, if not the, best hockey player to ever lace up a pair of skates. What's not universally known though, is he had a list of superstitious rituals a mile long. He had a specific order he put on his equipment and the order never changed. During warm ups, he would always miss his first shot to the right side. After warm ups, he would return to the dressing room and down a Diet Coke followed by a glass of ice water followed by a Gatorade, and then he'd wash that down with another Diet Coke. Always. He would also always put baby powder on the end of his sticks, saying that it paid to “take care of the things that take care of you.” After scoring nearly 1,000 goals in his career, the Great One can probably do whatever he wants to do.
8 Serena Williams
It's not uncommon for athletes to wear a particular piece of clothing over the course of a hot streak, thinking it brings them luck. In that regard, tennis star Serena Williams is no different in that she will wear the same pair of socks for the entirety of a tournament. By the end of her run, we imagine those socks could make even a hyena pass out.
7 Michael Jordan
It's probably one of the more commonly known superstitious rituals, but His Airness, Michael Jordan, played every game of his exceptional career with a pair of his shorts from the University of North Carolina – sentimental for having won a national title in them – beneath his NBA gear. Hey, it beats a gold thong.
6 Bjorn Borg
While we can't say for sure whether it's true or not, many credit Swedish tennis star for inspiring the “playoff beard” trend seen in the NFL and NHL. As part of his preparation for Wimbledon every year, Borg would grow a beard and wear the exact same Fila shirt. Though, he did win 5 straight Wimbledon titles, so there's that.
5 Rafael Nadal
He's one of the most dominating tennis players in the world. But he's not without his own quirks. Nadal's superstitious rituals including toweling off after every single point – yeah, that wouldn't get old – making sure his opponent stands up before he does after a break, and making sure that the labels of his drink bottles point toward his end of the court. Perhaps the labels have some special power we're not aware of?
4 John Smit
Smit was one of South Africa's most accomplished rugby captains and one who had an interesting little quirk of his own. On match days, Smit would only wear black underwear, believing any other color to be bad luck. We have no proof that he wore the same pair of knickers over his whole career though. Let's hope he didn't.
3 Babe Ruth
The Bambino, the greatest baseball player of his era, had a pile of strange quirks and habits. He made sure to always step on second base on the way in from the outfield – if he missed it, he'd run out of the dugout and touch it between innings. He never let teammates borrow his bats claiming each one only had a certain number of hits in them and he regularly wore women's silken stockings on off days to avoid falling into a slump – we don't know about slumps, but they do feel sorta nice.
2 Dwight Howard
Howard is one of the more physically imposing centers in the game today. But in a unique ritual – and one we'd prefer to not know about, quite honestly – prior to each game, Howard will excuse himself, head for the bathroom, and – well – unload a deuce. Perhaps it's the lightness in his body that allows him to soar like Superman. Still – TMI, dude.
1 John Henderson
Football players are tough and intense. And big. Former defensive tackle John Henderson – all 6'7” 335 pounds of him – required a team's athletic trainer to slap him across the face to get him pumped up for a game. And slap him hard. The much smaller trainer would be required to slap Henderson until “he tasted blood in his mouth.” We wonder if the trainer got hazard pay for that.
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