Paul the Octopus and the 10 Biggest Superstitions in Sports

Doug GausepohlCorrespondent IOctober 26, 2010

Paul the Octopus and the 10 Biggest Superstitions in Sports

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    CHICAGO - JULY 16: A general view of Wrigley Field as fans watch the Chicago Cubs take on the Philadelphia Phillies on July 16, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs defeated the Phillies 4-3. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    If you haven't heard the Earth-shattering news yet, Paul the octopus, who became famous over the past summer for correctly picking the winner of World Cup soccer matches, died in his tank early Tuesday morning.

    Paul went a perfect eight for eight in choosing the would-be winner of the World Cup matches by falling on to a plastic box which contained the team's national flag.

    Some people—actually, lots of people—believe Paul was some sort of all-knowing invertebrate with psychic powers.  Others, you know, the ones with common sense, know that it was just an extremely coincidental chain of events.

    This got us thinking—what are the 10 biggest superstitions in all of sports?

No. 10. Michael Jordan's UNC Shorts

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    NEWPORT, WALES - OCTOBER 02:  Michael Jordan watches the action during the rescheduled Morning Fourball Matches during the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort on October 2, 2010 in Newport, Wales.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Even the greatest of all-time needed a little luck, I guess.

    Michael Jordan, as talented as he was, wore his blue University of North Carolina basketball shorts under his Bulls uniform during every game he played for Chicago. 

    Jordan unintentionally began the style of wearing longer shorts during games.  Jordan would wear longer Bulls shorts in order to cover up his UNC shorts, and the style caught on. 

    Can't blame the rest of the NBA for trying to imitate Jordan, right?  He must have been doing something right.

No. 9. Turk Wendell's Dental Obsession

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    FLUSHING, NY - JULY 12:  Turk Wendell #13 of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches against the New York Mets on July 12, 2003 at Shea Stadium in Flushing, New York.  The Phillies defeated the Mets in 11 innings 4-2.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    Turk Wendell was quite a character outside of this superstition.

    Wendell would chew four pieces of black licorice during every inning he pitched.  After returning to the dugout, Wendell would brush his teeth amongst his teammates. 

    Wendell was known for other oddities (wearing necklaces with bones from animals he had hunted, throwing the rosin bag down violently and demanding his contract end with the number 99), but this one tops the list for him.

No. 8. Moises Alou's Unique Method for Washing His Hands

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    BRONX, NY - MAY 18:  Moises Alou #18 of the New York Mets singles in two runs against The New York Yankees during the fourth inning of their game on May 18, 2008 at Yankee Stadium in The Bronx Borough of  New York  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Most players wear batting gloves to take the sting out of making contact with the ball.

    Moises Alou doesn't believe batting gloves would be as productive as urinating on his own hands.

    Alou claims peeing on his own hands helps harden the skin and helps avoid calluses.

    Apparently, this superstition might not hold much uri- I mean, water.  According to a 2004 article by Slate, urine contains something called urea, which is a main ingredient in moisturizers that help soften the skin.

No. 7. Throwing an Octopus on the Ice in Detroit

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    DETROIT - JUNE 12: A general view of the giant inflated Octopus on the ice taken before the Game Seven of the 2009 NHL Stanley Cup Finals between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena on June 12, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan. (
    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    First off, what is it with fans and octopus?  Octopuses?  Octopi?  I don't know.

    Second, no, the real octopus they throw on the ice isn't really that big. 

    This superstition began in the early days of hockey, when it only took eight wins to win the Stanley Cup.  Eight wins, an octopus has eight legs.  Get it?

    The tradition still lives strong today in the Motor City, as octopus are thrown out before the game, during a game and after a Red Wings playoff win, even though the number of games to win is 16.  That just means twice as many octopus!

No. 6. The Madden Curse

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    NEW ORLEANS - AUGUST 09:  Fans play Madden NFL 11 at Madden Gras. The event celebrated the launch of EA SPORTS' Madden NFL 11 video game on August 9, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The game featuring New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees goes on sale
    Sean Gardner/Getty Images

    This curse is extremely popular amongst football/video game fans. 

    The basis of the curse is that the player featured on the front cover of the NFL Madden video game would either get hurt or have a poor season. 

    The curse has been "alive" since 2002, where almost every player on the cover since has either been injured (Michael Vick, Donovan McNabb, Troy Polamalu) or had disappointing seasons (Daunte Culpepper, Marshall Faulk).

No. 5. Boggs and His Chicken Diet

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    COOPERSTOWN, NY - JULY 26:  Hall of Famer Wade Boggs waves to the crowd as he is introduced at Clark Sports Center during the 2009  Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony on July 26, 2009 in Cooperstown, New York.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    When players are "hot", they'll likely perform the same tasks before every game in order to stay hot.

    For Boggs, that was as simple as eating his dinner.

    Boggs would eat a plate of chicken before every game he played in. 

    Must have worked well.  Boggs hit with a career .328 mark, 25th best all-time. 

No. 4. Caron Butler Does the Dew

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    SAN ANTONIO - APRIL 29:  Forward Caron Butler #4 of the Dallas Mavericks after being called for a technical foul against the San Antonio Spurs in Game Six of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center on April 29, 201
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    One of the basic rules that everyone who plays a competitive sport learns: Don't drink soda before a game.

    Well, Caron Butler didn't get that memo.  He would guzzle a two-liter bottle of Mountain Dew before and during every game during his career at UConn.

    When he was drafted by the Washington Wizards in 2002, the team made him stop the habit, as they didn't foresee it producing very good long-term results healthwise. 

No. 3. Kevin Rhomberg Doesn't Believe in Taking Rights on Reds

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    There's not many right turns when it comes to baseball.  You take a left after you get to first base, a left after you get to second base, a left after you get to third base, you get the picture now.

    Kevin Rhomberg was a fringe-player for the Cleveland Indians, playing in just 41 games in three seasons for the Tribe.  He's also known as one of the most superstitious players—ever.

    Rhomberg was mostly known for his inability to make right turns.  If a situation came up during a game where he needed to make a right turn, he would turn left and run in a full circle to get himself going in the right direction. 

    Needless to say, he didn't last very long in the major leagues with that quirk. 

No. 2. Boston Red Sox and the Curse of the Bambino

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    COOPERSTOWN, NY - JULY 24:  A statue of Babe Ruth is seen at the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum during induction weekend on July 24, 2010 in Cooperstown, New York.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    You all know the story by now.  Babe Ruth was sold to the Yankees by the Red Sox, and the Red Sox hadn't won a World Series since.

    That is, of course, until 2004, where they'd defeat the team they sold Ruth to, the New York Yankees, and become the only team in major league history to win a playoff series after being down 3-0.  They would go on to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals and win their first World Series since 1918, thus ending the curse.  For good measure, Boston would win another World Series in 2007. 

    The curse was most apparent in 1986, where the Red Sox were one out away from winning the 1986 World Series, when they gave up three straight hits, a wild pitch that scored the tying run and an error by first baseman Bill Buckner, which allowed the Mets to win and force a Game 7, which they would eventually win. 

No. 1. Chicago Cubs and the Curse of the Billy Goat

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    CHICAGO - JULY 21: Fans in the upper deck do a dance to the song 'YMCA' during a pitching change as the Chicago Cubs take on the Houston Astros at Wrigley Field on July 21, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Astros defeated the Cubs 4-3 in 12 innings. (Photo
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    This is easily the biggest, and one of the longest running superstitions in all of sports. 

    The curse began in 1945 when a man named Billy Sianis was kicked out of a Cubs-Tigers World Series game because his pet goat was bothering the other fans. 

    Sianis declared the Cubs would never win again, and he was right—sort of.  Obviously the Cubs have won games since, but they haven't reached a World Series since.  They were five outs away in 2003 against the Florida Marlins, but then Steve Bartman became famous for impeding Moises Alou from potentially catching a foul ball, and the Cubs collapsed and lost the final two games of the NLCS to the Florida Marlins, who would go on to win the World Series in 2003.