Whether it’s keeping the same pregame rituals or wearing the same clothes as the last win, athletes have some of the quirkiest superstitions.
I’m not talking about knocking on wood so as not to jinx a situation — a common occurrence in The State Journal newsroom — or listening to the same hype song before each contest. Some athletes take superstitions to a different level. How do I know? I used to be one.
It started as eating my mom’s “lucky spaghetti” the night before every big high school cross country and track race, writing “John 3:16” in Sharpie on my right thigh and wearing the same socks as a previous win (washed, of course). But eventually my routine warped into stopping to get the same amount of gas in my vehicle from the same fuel pump at the same gas station before every home track meet my senior year. I would even wait if someone was using the “lucky” pump — even if every other pump at the gas station was vacant!
It didn’t take long to outgrow this peculiar pre-race ritual, but it’s refreshing to know I am not alone.
According to IMG Academy, a multi-sport training and educational institution, believing that a routine or an object is lucky provides an athlete with confidence and reassurance that they will perform well.
Take for instance, tennis player Goran Ivanisevic, who intentionally avoided stepping on the lines of the court and was always the second player to stand up from his chair during changeovers.
After winning a tournament match, Ivanisevic would repeat his whole routine before the next match — including wearing the same clothes, eating at the same restaurant and talking to the same people. He later admitted his regiment “got very boring.”
Fellow tennis player, Serena Williams credits her winning ways to repeated routines. In addition to bringing her shower sandals to the court and tying her shoelaces a certain way, the legend also bounces the ball five times before first serves and twice before second serves.
However, baseball, the sport known for the “Curse of the Bambino,” has long been the game of superstition.
Hall-of-famer Wade Boggs had quite a few odd rituals, such as waking up at the same time everyday, taking pre-game batting practice at 5:17 p.m. and running sprints at 7:17 p.m. He also wrote the word “Chai” — the Hebrew word for “life” — in the batter’s box before every at-bat.
But the 12-time All Star’s most famous superstition was eating chicken before every single game — 2,439 over his 18-year career to be exact. In fact, his wife, Debbie, amassed more than 40 recipes so Boggs, who earned the nickname “Chicken Man” from fellow players, could have different pre-game poultry dishes.
Fellow ballplayer, Larry Walker, who was the 1997 National League MVP, had an obsession with the number three. Not only did he wear the number 33 jersey throughout his 17-year career, he also requested a phone number with as many threes as possible and wakes up at 33 past the hour.
Walker even got married at 3:33 p.m. on Nov. 3 and last year in a twist of fate or irony became the 333rd player to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Coopertown.
So perhaps it pays to be a bit superstitious.
Chanda Veno is editor of The State Journal. She can be emailed at email@example.com