Superstition everywhere

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Superstition in sport is part of the game

By Bryan Scott
Photos by Ed Shipul

Sports superstitions and rituals are built into the game. I remember being a kid playing hockey trying to mimic my favourite players. From Wayne Gretzsky’s jersey tuck, putting on my equipment in the same order, all the way to eating some delicious candy before the game, superstition has always been a piece of the puzzle.

One of the more common superstitions is about wardrobe. Some athletes have a lucky item that they wear to keep them calm, cool, and collected. For anyone who has seen Space Jam, you know that Michael Jordan wore his college shorts from North Carolina under his NBA game shorts for his entire career. Tiger Woods always wears red on Sundays, and it seemed to work, early in his career. He was unstoppable on the final day. I wonder what happened?

Sometimes, it has nothing to do with what they are wearing, but how they put it on. For instance, Taylor Hall tweeted that he puts all his equipment on from left to right, for every game.

The shutout jinx in hockey is a crazy occurrence. It may seem dumb that saying the word “shutout” around the goalie, or even when watching the game, can cause the other team to score. Do not tell that to Jonas Gustavsson and Carey Price; they had their shutouts broken on back-to-back weeks last season. TSN announcers Gord Miller and Ray Ferraro are to blame; they mentioned the S-word during the live broadcast of a Maple Leafs game, and the shutout was broken shortly after. A week later, during a Montreal Canadiens game, Price had a shutout over Detroit heading into the third period.  The announcers were discussing the previous week’s jinx and saying how it had no effect on actual game play. Before the sentence was completed, Detroit scored. This jinx also occurs in baseball when a team vies for a no-hitter. It is probably a good idea not to mention either of these things if your favourite team is playing.

My personal favourite — and November-appropriate — is the playoff beard. The New York Islanders started it in the 1980s. As soon as they playoffs start, the coach and the players do not shave. It doesn’t matter if you have a big, bushy beard, a pencil-thin moustache, or a patchy fur chin, it does not come off until they are eliminated or win the championship. Football and baseball players have adopted the same idea, as was evident with Giant’s pitcher Brian Wilson’s famous beard. After he and the San Francisco Giants won the World Series, The San Francisco Chronicle wrote “Wilson is now the face (and beard) of the team.”

Finally, players have pre-game and in-game rituals that they go through each time they get ready or during a particular part of the game. For instance, Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher eats two chocolate chip cookies before each game.  Recently, Marshawn Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks has devastated defenses, breaking tackles and seeming unstoppable. So what does he eat when he comes off the field? Skittles. Yes, he tastes the rainbow, which he has been doing since his high school football days.  Who says nutrition is everything?