The 30 Strangest Superstitions In Sports History

Jerry Tarkanian

Photo: AP

Sports figures have fallen into routines, habits, and superstitions that they believe will put them in a better position to win every time.A basketball coach chews on a towel during games, a football coach eats turf, and hockey player drinks beer during every intermission.

But they get better… check out the strangest habits of all.

#30 Nomar Garciaparra played with his batting gloves and tapped his toes before every pitch

Even casual baseball fans knew that Nomar Garciaparra was a big fan of rituals. Before every pitch of an at-bat, the former All-Star shortstop would adjust the velcro on both batting gloves several times in a rhythmic fashion. As soon as he was finished with that, Nomar moved his bat in windmill like fashion towards while alternatingly tapping his toes.

That wasn't the full extent of Nomar's superstitions. He would kiss his bat and climb the stairs of the dugout one foot of a time before getting to the on-deck circle where he would repeat his at-bat routine over and over again. He also (almost) never changed the shirt he would take batting practice in, and according to his brother Michael, Nomar would lose it if you ever touched his hat.

#29 Serena Williams will not change her socks once during a tournament

Tennis is a game that relies heavily on the feet, but Serena asks more out of them than most. Wearing a pair of socks more than once feels incredibly gross and it isn't good for the health of your feet even if one does that only when going down the corner store to get an Arnold Palmer.

Williams doesn't mind that feeling. In fact, she really likes it. She will only wear a single pair during any given tournament.

#28 Michael Jordan would always wear his UNC shorts under his NBA shorts

When Michael first joined the league in 1984, he wore shorts that were longer than most of his contemporaries. The reason for this was that Jordan liked to wear his powder blue North Carolina shorts under his Bull skivvies.

Even though Jordan had reason for longer shorts, fellow NBA players soon followed suit.

#27 Brian Urlacher eats two chocolate chip cookies before every game

Bears All-Pro linebacker Brian Urlacher is a finely tuned machine made up of muscle and instincts. And cookies.

It would be fair to call him the 'Cookie Monster of the Midway.'

Urlacher will eat two chocolate chip cookies before every game. Eat your heart out, Gatorade.

#26 Ed Belfour didn't let his teammates touch any of his equipment

Several athletes have a strong sense of propriety when it comes to people touching their equipment. Ed Belfour actually threatened people over touching his stuff.

Belfour gave all of his teammates a pre-emptive warning every season: 'If you touch my stuff, I'll kill you.' Fair enough, Ed.

#25 Jerry Tarkanian had to chew on a towel during games

Jerry Tarkanian was a wildly successful NCAA Men's Basketball coach, but the only thing anyone ever wants to talk about is the towel.

While coaching a game that took place in a sweltering southern California high school gym, Tarkanian got fed up with having to constantly go to the water fountain, so he wet a towel and chewed on it to keep his mouth from going dry. Ever since that moment, he chewed a towel out of superstition.

#24 Caron Butler used to drink several ounces of Mountain Dew before and during every game

Caron Butler had an unhealthy obsession with Mountain Dew. During his UConn days, Butler would have his wife go to the store and pick him up a two-liter bottle of the green, bridge work destroying soda. He would chug the first half prior to tip-off and the second portion during half time.

When Butler turned pro, he kept the tradition alive and possessed several refrigerators exclusively for housing Dew. In 2007, the Washington Wizards and the NBA Players Association barred him from drinking the stuff anymore during games. In 2009, he quit having it all together.

Until this past season, Butler would chew on fast food straws during games. He has since quit that habit too.

#23 Steve Kline never washed his hat

Kline was a left-handed specialist reliever for several years at the Major League level. Though he had a solid career, most fans took notice of Kline's sweat stained hats.

Kline wouldn't wash his hat a single time during a season. As a result, Kline's dingy hat became a common topic of conversation for the fans.

His hats become such a hot topic that the St. Louis Cardinals once held a 'Steve Kline Hat Day' where the first 5,000 fans that entered the park got their own dirty hat.

#22 Mike Bibby clips his fingernails during timeouts

Bibby used to just pick at his fingernails obsessively like lots of people do. However, he must have built up a tolerance since he had to move to nail clippers.

This nail ritual has gotten to the point where his team's trainers will hand him a nail clipper during timeouts so he can work on them while his coach yells about something else entirely.

#21 Larry Walker

Larry Walker was right up there with Ken Griffey, Jr. and Barry Bonds as one of the best five-tool players of the 1990s. He was the National League MVP in 1997, and was elected to five all-star games.

Why was he so successful? Larry thinks it has to do with the number three.

He wore the number 33 for his entire career, made sure the phone company gave him a number with as many threes as he could get, and he would only wake up at 33 past the hour. Walker even got married on November 3rd at 3:33pm.

#20 Jason Terry wears the shorts of his opponents on nights before games

In basketball, it's important to understand the enemy as much as possible. If that means sleeping in the shorts of your opponents, so be it. Do you think that's weird? Jason Terry sees nothing weird about it.

Jason Terry owns a pair of shorts for every single team in the NBA. On nights prior to game days, JET will grab the particular colours of his next opponents and fall asleep in them.

#19 Richie Ashburn slept with his bats

When Phillies outfielder Richie Ashburn had a torrid streak at the plate, he would take the bat he was using at the time home with him and sleep with it in his bed. He did this in order to make sure clubhouse attendants didn't mix his bats in with the rest of the inferior ones.

The superstition worked. Ashburn was elected to Cooperstown in 1995.

Ashburn, known in circles as 'Whitey', was a popular colour commentator of Phillies broadcasts after his playing days. He used to quip that he 'slept with a lot of old bats.'

#18 Patrick Roy had full fledged conversations with his goal posts

It's super embarrassing to get caught talking to an inanimate object, but Patrick Roy never had such qualms. The NHL legend has freely admitted that he used to talk to his goal posts during his games.

Why? 'Because they are my friends,' Roy routinely said.

Roy is widely believed to be the best goaltender to have ever laced up a pair of skates, so who's to say he's crazy for talking to his posts?

#17 Pelle Lindbergh drank Pripps beer during every intermission

Pelle Lindbergh left a large impression on the NHL despite being in the league for only five years. He was the first European player ever to win a Veznia Trophy.

Lindbergh also garnered attention for his white mask and being the first goaltender in NHL history to carry a water bottle with him out to the ice.

Behind the scenes, Lindbergh had two interesting quirks. He wore wear the same orange t-shirt under his hockey pads throughout his entire career. It ended up getting so worn out that he would have to constantly sew the shirt back together.

Lindbergh would also drink a Swedish beer known as Pripps in between every single period. The beer also had to be served to him by a particular assistant coach and each glass had to have two ice cubes in it.

#16 Wade Boggs ate chicken before every game

Hall-of-Famer Wade Boggs is well known for a few superstitions. He woke up at the same time every day, took batting practice at 5:17pm, wrote the Hebrew word 'Chai' in the batter's box during every at-bat, and most famously, he ate chicken before every single game.

Boggs' wife had at least 40 different recipes that involved chicken so every day meant a different meal.

#15 Wayne Gretzky's baby powdered the end of his stick prior to faceoff

One does not earn the moniker 'the Great One' without doing a few things that are a little strange.

Gretzky always put on his uniform in a certain order, fired the first shot of warm-ups wide right of the net, and would drink a Diet Coke, a glass of ice water, a Gatorade, and another Diet Coke in that order prior to game time. The last thing he would do before stepping on the ice was apply baby powder to the blade of his stick.

Was there reason for the baby powder? Gretzky once said, 'I think it's essentially a matter of taking care of what takes care of you.'

#14 Stephane Labeau chewed a copious amount of gum before every game

Most people like gum. Former NHLer Stephane Labeau liked gum more than anybody else that didn't have the last name 'Wrigley.'

Before every game, Labeau would chew somewhere between 20 and 20-five pieces of gum and spit them all out exactly two minutes before faceoff.

#13 Goran Ivanisevic would repeat the events of a day if he won a match during a tournament

The Croation tennis legend had a few typical superstitions, and one atypical superstition. First, the normal ones:

Ivanisevic would try to never step on the lines of the court, and he made sure to be the second player to stand up from his chair during a change over. Here's where it gets weird:

If Ivanisevic won a match during a tournament, he would repeat whatever it was he did during the day that he won. He would wear the same clothes, eat at the same restaurant, and even talk to the same people.

Later, Goran would admit that sometimes this superstition, 'got very boring.'

#12 Moises Alou peed on his own hands to harden them

Moises Alou once famously admitted that he peed on his hands to harden them before games. He received a lot of flack from the media for that, and in all honesty, it's not all that weird. In fact, you're going to see some weirder pee related superstitions later in the slideshow. Urine luck!

Alou's admittance created a firestorm of jokes, so we would be re-missed to not make mention of this.

By the way, doctors say urinating on your own hands doesn't harden them. If anything, it softens them.

#11 Les Miles eats turf during games

LSU football coach Les Miles has a grass habit. No, not that kind. He actually will eat some of the grass on the field before every single game and he will do it again in high pressure situations.

Cameras have caught Miles in the act of munching on the turf before When asked about it, Miles said, ''I have a little tradition that humbles me as a man, that lets me know that I'm a part of the field and part of the game,' Miles said with a smile. 'You should have seen some games before this. I can tell you one thing: The grass in Tiger Stadium tastes best.'

#10 NASCAR has several superstitions, but most notably doesn't allow peanut shells on the track

For a relatively new sport, NASCAR sure has a lot of superstition surrounding it.

-There are no green cars since they are considered bad luck.

-No driver carries $50 dollar bills as they are also considered bad luck.

-There are no peanut shells permitted on the track. Any other peanut product is fine, just no shells are allowed. This is due to crashes that happened decades ago where peanut shells were found in the wrecks of driver who had died.

#9 Vladamir Guerrero has his teammates help him dirty his own helmet

For as long as Vladamir Guerrero has played Major League Baseball, he has always sported a dirty, pine tar covered helmet while at the plate. How it got that dirty is grosser than you may immediately think.

'The Impaler's' helmet is covered in dirt from the dugout, pine tar, and the spit of himself and his teammates. Before every season, Vlad leaves his helmet on the floor of the dugout while his teammates do whatever they want to it. As the season goes on, he adds more pine tar to it.

#8 John Henderson loves getting slapped across the face on game day

NFL defensive tackle John Henderson is an intense man. This video is evidence of just how intense he is:

#7 Barry Fry peed in the corners of his home soccer stadium in order to get rid of evil spirits

Barry Fry used to be the manager of the English Football Club Birmingham City from 1993-1996. In that time, he started doing something quite strange.

Believing there were evil spirits living in their home grounds of St. Andrews, Fry went to all four corners of the field and peed on them. This act was done to ward off the spirits. It's unclear as to how often he did this, but it probably happened more than once.

Fry's efforts did little to help Birmingham City or himself. His team eventually started losing games, and Fry was relieved of his duties.

#6 Jason Giambi and his teammates wear a gold thong to bust out of slumps

In 2008, Jason Giambi endured a long slump that he was desperate to get out of, and desperate times call for desperate measures.

Giambino started wearing a gold Iam thong under his uniform and his slump ended not long after. Other teammates caught wind of it, and have also used the thong in order to end a skid at the plate.

Johnny Damon believed the thong works because, 'You're not worrying about your hands or your balance at the plate,' Damon said. 'You're worried about the uncomfortable feeling you're receiving.'

I am worried about the uncomfortable feeling I am receiving right now.

#5 Turk Wendell brushed his teeth in the dugout and chewed licorice while he pitched

Turk Wendell was quite the character. His numerous superstitions are more famous than Wendell himself.

Wendell wore the number 99 for most of his career since it was his favourite. He liked it so much that he had every figure on every contract he ever received end with a 99.

Adding to his colourful persona was this oversized necklace that he would wear in every game. The necklace was made up of teeth from animals he had killed whilst hunting. The necklace had parts of lions and wild boars hanging from it.

While on the mound, Wendell pitched with four pieces of licorice in his mouth. When the inning was over, Wendell would take an exaggerated leap over the foul line and would then brush his teeth in the dugout.

#4 Kevin Rhomberg refused to turn right and had to touch any player that touched him first

Kevin Rhomberg wasn't in the big leagues for very long at all. In fact, he wasn't all that good of a player. The only reason baseball historians ever bring him up is because he was exceptionally weird,

Rhomberg never turned right while on the field. If he had to move right, he would spin left. He was the opposite of Derek Zoolander.

Even weirder than his directional impedance was how he behaved when players, coaches, or whomever touched him. He had to touch them back.

As an example, if Rhomberg was ever touched while sliding into second, he'd chase the fielder down and touch him back. Every time.

#3 A soccer team bathed in a crocodile and hippo infested river before a game and it went just as well as you might expect

This was a pre-game ritual that happened only once, but it bears mentioning.

Back in 2008, African football club Midlands Portland Cement was instructed to take a cleansing dip into the Zambezi River by their coach. This was due to the team losing several games in a row and the coaching staff felt the team needed a change of luck before taking on a rival club later in the week.

The Zambezi River is not a river someone should swim in, especially where they were located. The particular area of the river where the team swam was close to Victoria Falls and it had especially strong currents. Also, this part of the river was closed off since it was infested with hippos and crocodiles.

One of the players drowned in the incident, and Midlands lost their next match.

#2 Sergio Goycocheca relieved himself before every penalty kick taken against him

Keeper Segio Goycocheca has appeared in several soccer highlight reels making spectacular saves on penalty kicks. Did he do anything to give himself an edge in soccer's most pressure packed situation? Why, yes he did.

Before every single kick taken against him, Goyococheca would empty his bladder right on the pitch.

That's right. He peed before every kick taken against him.

According to Goyococheca, 'I was very subtle and nobody complained.'

#1 Lyoto Machida drinks his own pee every single day

MMA fighter Lyoto Machida is a headlining fighter at UFC bouts and is considered to be one of the best in the world. To what does he owe his success?

The drinking of his own urine, of course.

Machida is a proponent of urine therapy and believes it has medicinal qualities. 'People think it's a joke. I never said it in the United States because I don't know how the fans will react. I drink my urine every morning like a natural medicine.'

Machida isn't alone in this either. He learned about it from his father and his whole entire family does it as well.

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