The 25 Strangest Rituals in Sports

Zachary D. RymerMLB Lead WriterNovember 18, 2010

The 25 Strangest Rituals in Sports

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    The world of sports is full of strange rituals. They range anywhere from longstanding traditions to team or player-specific little oddities that are repeated just for the sake of repetition.

    It was a realization such as this that sent us at Bleacher Report on the prowl. Indeed, we were going to track down the strangest of the strange as far as sports rituals are concerned, and damn the consequences.

    The 25 that we dug up range from odd pregame ceremonies, to measures taken to ward off losing streaks, to just downright inappropriate treatment of various pieces of equipment.

    So here they are, the 25 strangest rituals in sports.

25. The Rally Cap

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    I'm not sure who or what started the rally cap. But I do know that he, she, or it should be publicly destroyed in a fantastic public ceremony.

    Make no mistake, the rally cap is one of the dumbest rituals to grace the world of sports, and it's downright depressing that it has become so widely used.

    Listen, if you're a fan, and you want to make a difference in the outcome of the game, try yelling obscenities at the players or running out on the field. Those things work all the time.

    Or so I'm told.

24. Nomar Garciaparra's Batting Preparation

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    I don't think it's a stretch to say that Nomar Garciaparra's complex batting ritual is the most imitated batting ritual in the history of little league.

    I did my part. So did you. Whether you know it or not.

    Now, I don't mean to go all Dennis Miller here, but Nomar's batting stance makes him look like a heroin junkie trying to get some dog crap off his shoes.

    Note: because the people at Major League Baseball are a bunch of fascists who put the lid on all videos featuring their product, this lame video from some jackass with shaky hands was the best I could muster.

23. Avoiding a Pitcher with a No-Hitter Going

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    Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

    One of baseball's most hallowed traditions is to back off entirely when a pitcher has a no-hitter going. You can't talk to him, sit near him, or even think about him while you're in the dugout together.

    If you do, of course, you just cost him a chance at history.

    The only one this doesn't explain was Armando Galarraga's failed perfect game. I have no idea how that happened, although I suspect foul play of some kind.

22. Turk Wendell's Assorted Oddities

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Turk Wendell was a major league pitcher for 11 years, and was an oddball for every one of them.

    Wendell's oddest ritual involved chewing four pieces of black licorice while he was pitching, then spitting them out at the end of each inning. Then he would go brush his teeth, and insert four new piecess of licorice.

    He would also wear assorted hunting trophies on a necklace, including the teeth of wild pigs and buffalo.

21. Darin Erstad and Steve Finley's Minerals

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Don't worry, there's other stuff besides baseball on here. Just getting it out of the way, as it were.

    Some players eat chicken. Some use steroids. Others use mystical power pouches.

    Well, at least Darin Erstad and Steve Finley did.

    While the two were teammates with the Angels, they used to wear little pouches around their necks that were packed with minerals. They were supposed to ward off injuries, slumps, and other evil spirits.

    After Finley started wearing his, he hit .350 down the stretch. Erstad also went on a hitting streak, and the two were both injury-free.

    I wonder if it was Jerry Garcia in a pouch...

    No doubt some of you have no idea what I'm referencing.

20. Laurent Blanc's Pregame Kiss

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    During the 1998 World Cup, French sweeper Laurent Blanc used to go up to his goalkeeper Fabien Barthez and kiss the top of his bald head.

    I don't know, and I don't want to know. But the French won the Cup that year, so I guess it worked.

19. Larry Walker and The Number 3

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    If this is indeed true, then Larry Walker is one creepy dude.

    Apparently, his obsession with the number 3 goes beyond just his uniform number.

    Walker was married on November 3rd at 3:33, he once bought 33 tickets for disadvantaged children to sit in section 333 while he played in Montreal. His last contract and his current contract required that $3,333,333 be donated to assorted childrens' organizations. And he has 3 kids.

    Like I said, cr33py.

    ... wait... what the hell just happened?

18. Mark Fidrych

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    Mark "The Bird" Fidrych was a pretty weird dude. So weird, in fact, that I think he might have been ahead of his time.

    Not only would he groom the mound every time he came out to pitch, he would also talk to himself, talk to the ball, and insist that balls that "had hits in them" be kept out of play.

    In addition to being weird, did you know he's also the first athlete ever to grace the cover of Rolling Stone?

    In short, this guy makes the Giants' Brian Wilson look comparatively normal. Fact.

17. All Of Wade Boggs' Rituals

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Wade Boggs has long been recognized as one of the most superstitious players in what is a very superstitious sport.

    We all know that he always ate chicken before every game, but his pre-game rituals encompass far more than just the consistent gestation of farm poultry.

    Boggs also woke up at the same time every day, took exactly 100 ground balls before BP, took BP at exactly 5:17, and ran sprints at 7:17. He also took the same route to and from his position, and always drew the Hebrew word "Chai" (life) in the batter's box before each at-bat. And he's not even Jewish.

    I swear I didn't make this stuff up. I'm not nearly that clever. Trust me. In fact, go ahead and read the rest of my stuff and find out for yourself.

16. John Henderson Getting Slapped

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    I for one would think twice about slapping John Henderson. In fact, I would think twice about even talking to him.

    But it turns out he loves being slapped. Just look how pumped he is in this video.

    I'm going to try this out on a few friends before out next flag football game. I figure it'll be fun either way.

15. Pelle Lindbergh's Love for All Things Sweden

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    The late NHL goalie was an odd one, to be sure.

    Lindbergh used to wear the same shirt under his gear for every game, an orange shirt that was purchased at a Swedish sporting goods store.

    Between periods, Lindbergh would drink a Swedish beverage called Pripps and would only take a sip if there were exactly two ice cubes in the cup. And this drink had to be delivered to him by a particular team trainer.

    Apparently, only one of the trainers could count ice cubes.

14. Les Miles Eating Grass

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    "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," said Les Miles shortly after the Alabama game.

    That ritual, of course, is eating grass right off the field. But you would have guessed that anyway, right?

    Yeah, this is a weird one. It kind of reminds me of how Maximus would always rub the dirt from the battlefield on his hands right before a fight in Gladiator. I guess Les Miles just feels the need to upstage the Roman general.

    And for the record, Miles says the grass at Tiger Stadium tastes the best.

13. The Free Throw Handshake

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    I'm going to count the free throw hand shake among the strangest sports rituals because of how eerily automatic it has become. I almost feel like it will be in the rule book in the event that I actually care to do research one of these days instead of just idly speculating on things.

    In any case, I put the video of Kevin Love on this slide because I still can't get over how incredibly awkward it is.

    In fact, it's actually awkward enough to scare me.

12. Playoff Beards

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    Charley Gallay/Getty Images

    The playoff beard was a tradition started by the New York Islanders in the 1980s, who believed that they would only go so far in the playoffs as their beards would take them.

    Complete balderdash, right?


    The Islanders won four Stanley Cups in the early '80s, and the playoff beard also helped the New Jersey Devils in 1995. The Red Wings went to the finals in 2009 under the slogan "The beard is back."

    Most recently, you can look at my man Brian Wilson's beard, which single-handedly won the 2010 World Series.

    Therefore, the weirdest part about this ritual is that it actually works.

11. Howard's Rock

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    Frank Howard, Clemson's head coach from 1940-1969, was given this rock by a friend of his, who told him, "Here's a rock from Death Valley, California, to Death Valley, South Carolina."

    Howard didn't make much of it, and used it as a door stop for many years. He eventually told an assistant to get rid of it, and that person's answer was to put it on a pedestal on a hill atop the east end zone.

    Clemson's players first ran past the rock in 1966, and pulled off a huge win. This prompted Howard to say, "Give me 110 percent or keep your filthy hands off of my rock."

    And like that, the ritual of rubbing the rock was born.

10. Streaking

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    It's either a great way to say, "I love my team so much I can't even contain myself," or to say, "Look at me be naked and stupid!"

    That's a decision I'll leave up to you.

    By the way, do not Google "sports streakers." And if you do, I have only three words for you:

    Told you so.

9. Alexander Ovechkin's Pregame Sexy Time

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    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    Back in 2009, Ovechkin granted an interview with Russian media outlet "Russia Today" and intimated that having sex before a game really helps his game.

    When his interviewer asked him to clarify if he meant before or after a game, he changed his tune.

    "Before and after," he said.

    Oh. That makes sense.

    Hey, they say it's good cardio. And who the hell's going to argue with him anyway.

8. Drinking Blood

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    Drinking blood before a match is something that is most famously associated with Sugar Ray Robinson, who drank beef blood regularly for over 10 years in his career.

    And we all thought downing a glass of raw eggs was gross.

7. Paul the Octopus Picking the World Cup Matches

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    The paranormal powers of Paul the Octopus may be a part of a now defunct sports ritual, but I think they're strange enough all the same.

    But then again, why wouldn't we turn to an octopus to make our major sports picks. There are eight stages in the World Cup, and Paul had eight limbs. Makes perfect sense, right?

    Indeed, and Paul was never wrong.

    By the way, let me tell you this: don't go out and buy an octopus off the black market and tell it to make NFL picks every week. It just doesn't work, and I'm pretty sure the bastard wants to eat my cats.

6. Moises Alou and Jorge Posada's Hand Preparation

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    What do former outfielder Moises Alou and Jorge Posada have in common?

    If your answer was that they both bat barehanded, you're only half correct.

    No, they also share a certain hand treatment that's a little odd, to say the least.

    Apparently, both Alou and Posada found that peeing on their hands helped them improve their grip and avoid callouses.

    Now you know who not to shake hands with if given the opportunity.

5. Bruce Gardiner Soaking His Stick

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    It's not a good idea to soak wood in anything, not unless you plan on molding it to a new shape.

    Or if you're trying to teach it a lesson.

    That's what Bruce Gardiner used to do with his hockey stick when he went on a cold streak, as he would take it and dunk it in the toilet in order to teach it some humility.

    Apparently, it worked. He started playing well every time he did it.

    Well, I'm on a Call of Duty cold streak myself. I wonder if I should try this out with my Xbox controller.

4. The Legend of the Octopus

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    What the hell is it with octopi on this list?

    As the guy in the video says, "attending or watching a playoff game in Detroit is synonymous with seeing an octopus thrown on the ice."

    Yup, has been for 58 years too. And why not? I for one will be damned if I can think of a better symbol for then then-necessary eight playoff wins that an octopus.

    And naturally, whenever I come up with something that I think suits the moment during a spectator sport, I always throw it from my seat.

    Well... except for that priceless crystal skull I once wanted to throw. I figured that would have been a bad idea.

3. Barry Fry's Golden Weapon Against Evil

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    David Rogers/Getty Images

    When English football manager Barry Fry was managing the Birmingham City club from 1993-1996, he used to pee on all four corners of the pitch in an attempt to end a "gypsy curse," particularly when his team was on a losing streak.

    Because we all know that gypsy ghosts hate it when you pee on a soccer field.

    Man, as if octopi weren't bad enough, what is it with people peeing on stuff on this list?

2. Ecuador's Witch Doctor

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    The Ecuadorian national team figured they were going to need some help if they were going to win the 2006 World Cup.

    And so they did what we all do in their situation. They opened up the yellow pages and found a witch doctor.

    A man named Tzamarenda Naychapi answered the call, and visited each of the 12 stadiums the Cup would be played in. He apparently drove away all the evil spirits and placed some benevolent spells on the goal posts.

    Ecuador went on to win two matches before being eliminated. I'm sure the witch doctor had everything to do with it.

1. Neil McKenzie's...I Don't Even Know What

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    Gallo Images/Getty Images

    Neil McKenzie is a South African cricketer, for your information.

    And in case you haven't figured it out already, he is also the keeper of the strangest ritual in sports.

    In order to keep himself safe from certain harmful germs, McKenzie used to require that all the lids on the toilets be closed at all times, and he also used to tape his cricket bat to the ceiling just in case.

    This was one of the things that led to McKenzie's release from his team in 2004, and he spent years trying to conquer his OCD.

    Once again, I'm not making this up. I (bleep) you not. And for once, I'm glad to be forced to use the substitute (bleep).