By Mitchell Steinberg
Athletes and sports fans around the world have their superstitions. NBA legend, Michael Jordan, wore his UNC shorts under his uniform in every game. Houston Astros ace, Justin Verlander, orders three crunchy taco supremes, a cheesy gordita crunch, and a Mexican pizza the night before each start.
Near and far there are superstitions in and around sports; even the Baltimore Ravens have superstitions. Justin Tucker lays out his entire uniform down to his base layers in front of his locker. Even the Ravens head coach has a superstition of his own: he gives no autographs before games and he has stuck to it throughout his head coaching career.
Jacob Hanlon, a Glenelg Junior Varsity football player, has a superstition of his own. Hanlon wears his gameday Nike socks inside out, because “it provides cushion and makes [him] feel lighter on my feet.” The superstition came to life when Hanlon learned that Nike was the Greek goddess of victory, so Nike was a must for the brand of his socks on game day. The superstition was not necessarily about the physical feel and action, but “I feel like it brings me luck and that change in my mindset helps to clear my mind, which helps me compete at my best.”
Similarly, Brandon Werner, Glenelg Junior Varsity baseball player, has a superstition with his game accessories, but never really thought of it as a superstition. Werner realized that he tapes his wrists before every game, left wrist then the right wrist, never left before or right or the ritual becomes pointless. Werner tapes his wrists because “it gives [him] a feeling of strength and stability which helps [him] at the plate and keeps [him] focused and aware while pitching and playing center field.” Werner does not know when he started taping his wrists but it has been a constant support for his game throughout baseball in his high school and travel career.
Some athletes, like Tristian Stepniak, a Glenelg Varsity basketball player, need a pre-game snack or meal to keep their game at its best. It can’t be any pre game snack or meal though. Skittles is one of Stepniak’s favorite pre game snacks. Shockingly, the pregame meal is affected more by Stepniak’s school day than the type of food he eats before his game. For Stepniak, it all started at a young age. “It consistently kept me energized and it gave me a burst of energy to come out strong at the beginning of the game,” Stepniak says. Stepniak’s superstition seems efficient because when he’s on the court he always starts strong and when he’s not on the court his energy is being devoted to cheering on his teammates.
Additionally, Chris Bernard, a Glenelg Varsity and travel hockey player, needed something to keep his game consistent. Unlike the rest, Bernard pours cold water on his entire head until all of his hair is wet and he has water dripping down his face, but his superstition is mostly based on setting a positive mindset before his game. Bernard has continued this because “it helps keep [his] hair out of [his] eyes and it has proven to increase [his] performance.” Bernard has to use cold water otherwise it is uncomfortable because of the temperature of his hair compared to the temperature on the ice.
In the light of superstitions with water, Alyssa Kelly, Glenelg Varsity Volleyball Libero, superstition is based around her favorite water bottle. Kelly puts the same number of hair ties on her water for every practice and the most impactful, every game. One time Kelly left her favorite water bottle at home and she had one of her worst practices she could remember. Kelly does it because “[She] always has and it’s been a consistent ritual that has proven to focus [her] mind on volleyball, and it also has become a reminder for [her] to make sure [she] stays hydrated.”
Professionally athletes have superstitions to, Bennie Fowler of the New York Giants wears NBA socks any time he steps on the field, whether it's practice or a game. Fowler has an excessive amount of these white NBA socks, which he has collected since his superstition originated at his high school best friend’s house. Fowler’s best friend happened to be the son of Pistons legend Joe Dumars, who had what seemed like an endless supply of these socks at his house. From high school on Fowler trusted in those white NBA socks, which Fowler wore for every game in his NFL career.
Uniquely, Three-time Pro Bowler, Harrison Smith of the Minnesota Vikings has a special way of warming up before his games. Smith warms up by starting his pregame meal drinking a cup of coffee, eating half of a plain bagel, then Smith takes a shot of Tabasco sauce. The coffee is not necessary for the pregame meal, but the Tabasco sauce is a necessity for Smith’s pregame meal. The Tabasco sauce wakes Smith up and helps Smith when he can not work an appetite before his games.
Another local team has a player with a savory superstition, Jake Elliott of the Philadelphia Eagles eats a slice of pizza and a slice of pie before every game. The pregame slices began in college when Elliott was the kicker at Memphis and it was the meal Elliot had before he squeezed a 56-yard field goal over the crossbar for the win against South Florida. Elliott believed that there was a reason for his good fortune with the game-winning field goal, so he credited the success to the meal and the ritual began.
Around professional sports just like the fans, the players’ have superstitions of their own. Some of the players superstitions stretch to the extreme, the superstitions range from food or drink to which piece of clothing goes on first. For athletes, some believe it can make or break their performance for any given game or even practice, and for fans, it could send their team on a downward spiral into complete failure. Will there ever be an answer to whether or not superstitions or they are just results of good fortune that are continued and change the mindset of athletes and fans alike? Superstitions will always be a part of sports and they will always help to show off the odd personalities of some famous athletes.