15 Athletes With Bizarre Quirks and Rituals
Sports are inherently strange — people putting their bodies through insane challenges for, in most cases, minimal reward. Only the very top-level competitors actually get anything tangible out of it — for the vast majority of people, sports are an expensive way of ending up battered and bruised.
The best of the best, then, are the people willing to put superhuman effort into what is fundamentally a silly thing very unlikely to get them anywhere. So it’s no wonder that a lot of them tend to be slightly odd. The way up is filled with challenges, and life at the top is filled with insane wealth and people catering to your every whim, so if you were a bit weird at the beginning, shit, a few years of success and there’s a reasonable chance of becoming a full-ass lunatic.
One of the ways these physically impressive individuals’ strangeness manifests is in rituals — little specific behaviors they feel are somehow linked to their performance, and can’t bring themselves to forgo. They know logically that wearing their lucky underpants isn’t what makes them win, but at the same time, can’t risk losing due to popping a different pair on their ass that morning.
It’s superstitious and goofy, and responsible for absolutely none of these high-achievers’ success, but results are results.
Spare Jordan: The GOAT’s Extra SHORTs
Michael Jordan felt his shorts from his days at the University of North Carolina were so blessed with luck that he wore them under his Chicago Bulls uniform. It seemed to pay off — this “Michael Jordan” character was rather successful.
The Laces That Lead to Aces
Serena Williams, possibly the greatest athlete ever, has a lucky way of tying her shoelaces before a match, and brings her showering sandals to court. She’ll also bounce the ball five times before a first serve, twice before a second.
The G in G-string Stands for Giambi
Former Yankee Jason Giambi revealed in 2008 that he wore a golden thong whenever he was experiencing a slump, and that would get him out of it. Other players ended up borrowing it and attesting to its asscrack-entering success.
Hockey’s Oldest Jock Strap
NHL great Sidney Crosby is thought to have worn the same jockstrap in every game since the junior leagues, but doesn’t discuss it. It makes sense — the not wanting to discuss it, not the “wearing decomposing underpants” thing.
Flush with Success
Retired NHL center Bruce Gardiner began an usual ritual in 1995: to get out of a slump, he decided to show his stick who was boss by dunking it in a toilet and flushing it. Yeah, take that, you wooden bastard!
No Fowl Balls for Baseball’s Mr. Chicken
Wade Boggs is best-known for drinking 100 beers on one flight, but was also a Hall of Famer who accidentally committed to a chicken-a-day habit: He started eating shitloads while writing a cookbook, and played so well he couldn’t stop.
Sleeping with the Enemy
NBA legend Jason Terry developed a habit of sleeping in the shorts of the team he was set to play the next day. It went well enough that he soon had the whole NBA represented in his shorts drawer.
One, Two, Three Times a Larry
1997 National League MVP Larry Walker had a fixation with the number three. He got married at 3:33 on the 3rd, wore number 33 and insisted on taking three practice swings. He eventually became the Hall of Fame’s 333rd entrant.
Big John’s Big Slaps
Former Jacksonville Jaguar John Henderson, known by the unimaginative but accurate nickname Big John Henderson, preceded every game by getting someone to slap him in the face as hard as they could. He’s 6-foot-7. Ha ha ha, fuck that.
Mr. October’s Lucky Helmet
Naked Gun star Reggie Jackson — who also played baseball — was so convinced his batting helmet was blessed with good luck that, when moving from the Yankees to the California Angels, he had it re-sprayed rather than accept a new one.
Alou? Great Place to Pee
Moisés Alou — who went pro two years after first touching a bat — wasn’t a fan of gloves. Instead, to toughen up his hands, he’d piss on them.There’s no way of knowing how successful he’d have been not covered in pee.
Soccer Star’s Selective Splashing
Former England soccer captain John Terry had a urinal of choice in Chelsea’s home ground, and refused to use any others. It reached a point where so many players were copying him that the team was late to the pitch, having all waited in line to pee in the same toilet.
The Secret Ingredient to Beating the Piss Out of People? Piss!
Former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida drinks a full glass of his own urine every day. So does his dad. As in, they each drink their own — Lyoto Machida’s dad doesn’t drink Lyoto Machida’s urine. That would be gross.
Aussie Rules — And So Do Puzzles
Australian rules football star Tom Lynch always has a risotto (made by his best friend) the evening before a game, then the next morning, does the spot-the-difference puzzle at the back of the match day program. Adorable.
The Tennis Champ Quirking Incredibly Hard
Rafael Nadal has so many rituals that, if he wasn’t a champion, he’d need help. Positioning his water bottles exactly, avoiding stepping on the lines, toweling off after every point even if he hasn’t moved… he’s got issues (and millions).