The Most Bizarre Lucky Charms in Sports
There is no place where the lucky charm is more valuable to an athlete than in the locker room or on the court, course, ice or field. The power of the lucky charm is not to be disputed.
For athletes—and even for some of their coaches—the presence of it can represent the difference between a winning or losing season.
What if someone stole Tiger Woods' red shirt the day of the final round of the Masters? Goodbye, green jacket.
The power of lucky charms is, more often than not, more of a mental power than an actual power, but hey, it works sometimes.
Here are some of the strangest good luck charms in sports.
Bill Russell's Pregame Puke
Bill Russell turned the Boston Celtics into one of the NBA's most storied franchises throughout a career that spanned the late '50s and most of the '60s. But who knows what would have become of him—or the Green—without the ability to puke?
According to popular NBA lore, Russell—who has more championship rings than he has fingers—had a habit of vomiting before each and every game he played.
A Sports Illustrated cover story from 1999 states that everyone bought into Russell's pregame ritual—including coach Red Auerbach, who would send Russell back to the locker room to puke if he found out his star hadn't done so yet.
Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, take note—perhaps your championship dreams for 2013 don't have to end quite yet.
Dwight Howard's Pregame Poop
Dwight Howard's pregame ritual just might out-gross Bill Russell's.
A few years ago, the then-Orlando Magic center told Mouthpiece Sports that he never steps on the court for a big game without putting in some quality time in the restroom first. In Howard's defense, the reporter may have caught him off guard with her question, so he was probably scrambling to come up with a good response.
In any case, when asked about a pregame ritual, here's what he came up with:
I don't think you guys want to know that on camera, what I do before a game. Before every game I make sure I sit on the throne of grace, which is the toilet. That's the ritual I've been doing since I was in high school.
Whatever you've got to do, I guess.
Big Mac's Magic Cup
A lot of athletes obsess over what to wear on game days. Not only does old clothing and equipment bring comfort and reliability, but it also carries some age-old mojo with it as the years go by.
That could account for the reason why Mark McGwire refused to change his cup.
McGwire may have once owned the single-season home run record, but he is the proud owner of another statistic that doesn't stand a chance of being threatened time soon (at least publicly): the longest usage of a single athletic cup.
According to the Kern Valley Sun, McGwire continuously used the same cup from high school—and keep in mind that his playing career didn't end until he was about 38.
Johnny Weir's Lady Gaga Goods
There's a lot of pressure on Olympians. They compete year in and year out, but most of them only make headlines once every four years—if they're lucky. So it goes without saying that when it's time to compete, it's go big or go home.
Men's figure skater Johnny Weir is not a subtle individual, and you could say the same about the person he idolizes and incorporates into his warm-up routine every time he hits the ice.
According to Women Talk Sports, Weir's Olympic Village digs were decked out in Lady Gaga paraphernalia in 2010, and her music and words were a source of inspiration for him in his quest to garner gold.
Unfortunately, though, Gaga's magic wasn't enough for Weir to medal at the 2010 Olympic Games.
Caron Butler's Secret Straws
Poor Caron Butler, for his lucky charm was outlawed by the NBA.
Once upon a time, the former Mavericks and current Clippers forward had a habit of chewing on straws while sitting on the bench during games. Baseball players have their tobacco and, on occasion, blades of grass, so why couldn't he have his straws?
For whatever reason, the NBA took offense to Butler's personal idiosyncrasy and decreed in 2010 that he—and everyone else—would no longer be permitted to chew straws on the bench.
Mavs owner Mark Cuban told ESPN.com he understood because it was "against the rules," and NBA senior VP for basketball communications Tim Frank told the site that the straw-chewing was a "safety issue."
All I know is, Butler's per-game totals have been on a steady decline since 2010.
Pat Croce's Crystal Ball
Fairy tales tell us to look into a crystal ball for a glimpse of the future. Apparently, the Philadelphia 76ers were watching a lot of fairy tales in 1996.
That year, the Sixers were the favorites to come out of the NBA draft lottery with the No. 1 overall selection, but just in case, team president Pat Croce procured a Waterford crystal ball from Ireland in the hopes that it would give his side a little extra luck, according to Lehigh Valley's The Morning Call.
Croce told the paper, "I'm half Irish and half Italian. The Italian part was going to fight for [the No. 1 pick] if the crystal didn't work."
But fortunately, it did work. The Sixers obtained the first pick and drafted Allen Iverson. Even though he couldn't bring a championship to Philly, you could say that he panned out. He was named Rookie of the Year in 1997 and earned MVP honors in 2001.
Netherland's World Cup Worshippers
Often, when an athlete really, really wants a win, he or she calls upon a higher power for some guidance. It doesn't always work, but it's a fair shot.
In this case, the entire Dutch national soccer team looked to the heavens in the hopes that it would help them obtain a World Cup victory.
In 2010, while the Netherlands competed in the World Cup, pastor Paul Vlaar dressed in an orange robe to show his support for the team—and his 300 worshippers were decked out in orange as well in the hopes that it would bring a bit of divine glory to the club.
Unfortunately, though, the Netherlands couldn't get the job done, losing 1-0 to Spain in the final.
Serena Williams' Dirty Socks
Superstitions are understandable, sure. But how is it possible that one of the best tennis players in the world honestly thinks that her socks have anything to do with when she wins?
Rumor has it that Serena Williams refuses to change her socks when she's winning during tournaments. As a semi-OCD person, I can't contemplate how someone could possibly become more focused when wearing something that is dirty, sweaty and gross, but if it works for her, fine.
That means that this summer, when Williams was en route to wins at the French Open, Wimbledon and the Olympics, her socks must have been ripe by the time mid-August hit.
Lamar Odom's Candy
Thanks to Khloe Kardashian, everyone in the free world now knows that her husband is a big fan of candy.
Lamar Odom—or the "Candy Man," as he's more commonly known—is famous for his sweet tooth.
According to the Los Angeles Times, he is more than willing to credit his overindulgent consumption of sugar for his stellar performances in the 2009 Western Conference Finals, when his double-doubles in Games 5 and 6 helped lead the Lakers past the Denver Nuggets.
It's funny because the games I played well were the games where I ate candy for breakfast...
...It's the reason why I got double digits in points and rebounds. I guess I'm going to have to eat candy for breakfast in order to play well.
So, there was a candy shortage in Dallas last year? That must be it.
Cleveland Indians' Squirrel
Some call it an omen, some call it a random wildlife appearance. Whatever the case, this particular squirrel brought some good luck to the Cleveland Indians.
In 2004, after a squirrel interrupted a game between the Indians and the Yankees at Jacobs Field, nothing was ever the same. Cleveland had been riding a nine-game losing streak before the squirrel appeared, and it had dropped seven games in the division standings to put itself in a rut during a critical stretch of the season.
But once the squirrel popped up during a seventh-inning Yankees rally, his furry face was all the motivation the Indians needed to fight for a 4-3 win and bring the epic losing streak to an end.
Diego Maradona's Grandson
It seems that the 2010 World Cup brought out the most superstitious sides of plenty of clubs—including Argentina.
Manager Diego Maradona had been known to look to his rosary beads for a bit of divine guidance during important matches. But when the pressure of the World Cup hit, he needed some extra luck in the form of his grandson.
According to Goal.com, Maradona flew his grandson, Benjamin, to Johannesburg for Argentina's journey toward glory. He even referred to him as the team's lucky charm during a news conference.
But just like some of the others who relied on luck to carry them to victory, Maradona's squad was unsuccessful. In the quarterfinals, it fell 4-0 to Germany.
Dana Vollmer's Elephant Earrings
While everyone was busy obsessing over Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin and Ryan Lochte as last summer's Olympics loomed, Dana Vollmer was merely background noise.
But she didn't need the public's adoration to carry her to glory. She had luck on her side.
Elephants have always been a good omen for Vollmer throughout her swimming career, and when she came upon a pair of elephant earrings prior to the London Games, she knew it was a signal that something good was on the horizon. She tweeted:
And what do you know? Vollmer returned to the U.S. with three gold medals, one of which came in the 100-meter butterfly.
Jason Terry's Sock Quintet
Jason Terry loves to talk and everyone knows it. But if you want to make him stop, all you have to do is steal one of his five pairs of socks before a game.
Terry is nothing if not a little bit OCD when it comes to his game-day routine. According to The New York Times, Terry—who has bounced around among Atlanta, Dallas and Boston in his 14 years of NBA service—follows the same order of business before every showdown.
The night before a game, he sleeps in opposing team's shorts. Then he eats the same thing the day of and can't play without his requisite five pairs of socks, all hiked up to his knees.
Of his sock habit, Terry commented, "[They] came from my father, who I saw wore them high in a yearbook picture. The five pairs is just a comfort thing."
Whatever floats your boat.
Fernando Rodney's Plantain
Prior to the Dominican Republic's matchup against Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic final, closer Fernando Rodney revealed the reason why his team had been so successful.
The magic was in a fruit.
Rodney told Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan that a plantain had been guiding him and his cohorts throughout the tournament. What was it saying? "If you keep me close to you, you're going to get the win."
The plantain proved to be prophetic, as the Dominican Republic capped off its WBC journey with a 3-0 shutout of Puerto Rico.
And that was one powerful fruit. It helped the DR outscore opponents 36-14 during its perfect run.
Evan Lysacek's Lightning Bolt
Forget Lady Gaga: Johnny Weir didn't have a powerful enough lucky charm to get him the gold medal in Vancouver in 2010. The guy who beat him, however, did.
Evan Lysacek—perhaps better known for being the guy dating Nastia Liukin—skated his way to the gold medal in men's singles at the 2010 Winter Games. His win was Team USA's first in male figure skating in 22 years, according to Women Talk Sports, and like another American cult hero, Lysacek had a lightning bolt to thank for his rise to fame.
WTS reports that when Lysacek first skated in the Junior Olympics, he decided to skate in a self-designed costume featuring a lightning bolt. Ever since winning back then, he has adorned himself with a lightning bolt necklace—which he wore in Vancouver.
Tiger Woods' Red Polo
Tiger Woods' superstition is one of the most well-known in all of sports. If it's Sunday and you see someone wearing red teeing off on TV, you know it's Tiger without even seeing his face.
But the question is, why red? And why only on Sunday?
'Cause his mommy said so.
A few years ago, Tiger took to his personal website to explain the reasoning behind his Sunday attire, saying, "I wear red on Sundays because my mom thinks that that's my power color, and you know you should always listen to your mom."
Sometimes it's OK to revise your regular OCD habits.
Michael Jordan's College Shorts
When you want to be the best player in NBA history, all you have to do is simultaneously conjure up as many powerful vibes as humanly possible.
That's why Michael Jordan always wore his North Carolina basketball shorts under his Chicago Bulls uniform—he needed his college superstar power as well as his pro power.
Jordan won a national title with the Tar Heels in 1982 before declaring for the draft a couple of years later, where he proceeded to garner six championship rings. And maybe it's because he had dual-championship powers working for him at once.
Perhaps he should start making the Bobcats wear his UNC shorts, too.
Wade Boggs' Pregame Chicken
One of the most infamous superstitions in all of sports was Wade Boggs' strange fixation with chicken.
We've already heard about some athletes' odd and rather disgusting pregame rituals, mostly involving the bathroom. Boggs' own personal pregame habit was far more palatable: The famously superstitious third baseman ate so much chicken before every game that Jim Rice began referring to him as "The Chicken Man."
Later, he would capitalize on his chicken obsession, publishing a chicken cookbook entitled, Fowl Tips: My Favorite Chicken Recipes.
But Boggs' lucky charms didn't begin and end with his pregame meal. He was also known to wake up at the same exact time every day and write the word "Chai" in the batter's box before every at-bat. He also didn't allow the Fenway Park announcer to say his jersey number, because once when it wasn't announced by mistake, he busted out of a slump.
Jason Giambi's Lucky Underwear
You can't choose your lucky charms. When you try to force them, they don't work. Lucky charms simply come to you, and only when you choose to embrace them can you glean their powers.
Jason Giambi, therefore, didn't deny the energy in the magic slump-busting thong that presented itself to him during his tenure with the Yankees. He went with it. He let it happen. And, in the long run, he got the last laugh.
According to The New York Times, whenever Giambi's batting average fell, he would resort to the same pair of lucky thong underwear in order to help him recover.
So what if he became the butt (pun intended) of every locker-room joke? It was worth it. At least, that's what he must tell himself.
Pedro Martinez's Little Buddy
In 2004, the Boston Red Sox were infamous for the idiosyncratic habits that helped them become world champions for the first time since 1918.
They took shots of whiskey before games, dubbed themselves "the idiots" and refused to care too much about anything. And starting pitcher Pedro Martinez contributed a little bit more luck in the form of fellow Dominican and friend Nelson de la Rosa.
De la Rosa was an actor and dwarf who made a name for himself as Martinez's sidekick during Boston's World Series run. He was famously hoisted upon Martinez's shoulders during the Red Sox's final post-championship champagne celebration.
When Martinez jumped ship from Boston to New York and downplayed de la Rosa's impact on the team's title run—he basically called him a gimmick, according to NBC Sports—de la Rosa became enraged. He told the New York Daily News, via NBC Sports, "[Martinez] broke my heart. That's not right, what he said about me."
De la Rosa vowed to cease all support of Martinez and passed away only two years later, in 2006. Pedro only had one more good season before fizzling out and retiring in 2009.