I don't watch much sports or TV for that matter, too busy with family, work, and various projects. But whenever I can I still try to watch boxing and MMA (mixed martial arts). I trained and competed in various combat sports for over 16 years and despite no longer training it's still something I have an interest in. Moving on...
Well, for those of you not familiar with the sport of MMA and it's #1 organization, the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Challenge), Canada has produced some of it's top notch competitors. Quebec's own Georges "Rush" St.Pierre has become one of the sport's elite fighters and is currently the UFC's Welterweight Champion. This is where the strange stuff comes in. During Georges most recent fight he was seen doing this:
Since this strange "twist of events" taking place the question of "why?" has been asked many times without a conclusive answer - until now. During the last UFC PPV one of Georges' teammates, Rashad Evans, fought and performed a similar pre-fight ritual. It has since been claimed that the fighters from this particular fight camp perform this ritual for good luck. Sure. Whateva.
Nonetheless, if you compare Georges trendsetting nipple tweaking to this old top 10 list of athletes and their sport related quirks I think you'll agree that Canada can claim superiority in this category. "We're #1! We're #1! We're #1..."
CBC SPORTS ONLINE TOP 10 Superstitious athletes
By Jason Murdoch, CBC Sports Online | May 10, 2005
"Fear is the main source of superstition and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom." - Bertrand Russell (1872-1970).
Most athletes probably haven't even heard of the British philosopher, but they'd be wise to heed his advice.
Sports is where the weirdest superstitions thrive and, if it leads to success of the team, are respected.
Accountants probably don't wear the same underwear during tax season. And when was the last time you saw a police officer perform the sign of the cross before he pulled someone over for speeding?
In sports, this odd behaviour is considered normal. Here's a look at some of the quirkiest of the bunch:
1. Wade Boggs
2. Mark Fidrych
3. Turk Wendell
4. Pelle Lindbergh
5. Kevin Rhomberg
6. Mike Hargrove
7. Patrick Roy
8. John McGraw
9. Goran Ivanisevic
10. Steve Finley/Darin Erstad
1. Wade Boggs, MLB
If you want to know about superstitions in baseball, Boggs is a perfect case study.
Known as the "Chicken Man," Boggs would eat poultry before every game and was obsessively compulsive about his routine.
He took exactly 150 ground balls during infield practice and had a fixation on time. He entered the batting cage at exactly 5:17 p.m. and ran wind sprints at 7:17 p.m.
Before each at-bat, he would write the Hebrew word "Chai" meaning life into the dirt of the batter's box.
Between pitches, he had a habit if he was playing defence: he'd swipe the dirt in front of him with his left foot, tap his glove two or three times and adjust his cap.
And those are just a few of dozens of Boggs's superstitions. To list them all would make this a Top 1 list.
2. Mark (The Bird) Fidrych, MLB
Of all the oddballs in baseball, Fidrych was the trailblazer.
Nicknamed "the Bird" for his resemblance to the popular Sesame Street character, Fidrych became a media celebrity for his antics on the mound during his rookie season with the Detroit Tigers in 1976.
Fans turned out in droves at Tiger Stadium to watch Fidrych fidget around on the mound, talk to the ball after each pitch and congratulate teammates after outstanding plays.
It all translated to a magical rookie season 19 wins and a league-leading 2.34 ERA.
Unfortunately, his luck didn't last. Knee and arm injuries cut Fidrych's career drastically short and he never pitched a full season after his freshman year.
By 1981, after five abbreviated seasons, he was out of the majors.
3. Turk Wendell, MLB
"The Turk" would like to be known for his biting slider, but most baseball fans remember him as the pitcher who brushed his teeth between innings.
Paying special attention to his molars was probably Wendell's most famous superstition.
Chewing four sticks of liquorice while he pitched on the mound, Wendell would sprint back to the dugout after the third out of the inning, making sure to leap over the baseline, and then break out the toothbrush.
He would repeat the process in every inning he pitched.
Baseball fans won't get to see Wendell's antics any longer. After spending 11 seasons with various teams in the majors, he announced his retirement in late March.
4. Pelle Lindbergh, NHL
There's an old clichι in hockey that there's no normal goaltenders. It takes a special some say insane person to step in front of vulcanized rubber travelling at 90 miles an hour.
So it's no wonder that goalies are the most superstitious in the hockey fraternity.
The late Philadelphia Flyers netminder reinforced this stereotype with his behaviour in the locker room.
Lindbergh would wear the same old orange t-shirt from a Swedish sporting goods company under his equipment. Each time the shirt started to fall apart, he had someone sew it up.
But his quirks didn't end there. Between periods, he wouldn't drink anything but a Swedish beverage called Pripps and would only take a sip if there were exactly two ice cubes in the cup. A particular team trainer, by the way, could only deliver that cup to him.
5. Kevin Rhomberg, MLB
Never heard of him? You're not only one. But he certainly made an impression during his 41-game stint with the Cleveland Indians in the early 1980s.
According to former pitcher Rick Mahler, Rhomberg was the most superstitious player he met in his 12-year stint in the majors.
"If you touched him, he'd have to touch you back," he told the San Antonio Express News
"We told our catcher to reach up and give him a touch when he came up to the plate, but Rhomberg hit him back before the catcher was even done touching him."
The seldom-used outfielder needed to employ this superstition even when he was on the basepaths. If he was tagged when he was on base , Rhomberg would wait until the end of the inning and then chase down the infielder and touch him before he reached the dugout.
He would never make a right turn on the diamond, because when you run the bases you're always turning left.
6. Mike Hargrove, MLB
When he was a player, the Seattle Mariners manager rivalled Boggs as a slave to his superstitions.
Hargrove would walk up the first-base line and take three practice swings before stepping into the batter's box.
It got worse at the plate, where he would perform a series adjustments fiddling with his batting gloves, pants, sleeves, wiping perspiration off his lips and pushing down on the top of his batting helmet before he was ready to step in.
After each pitch, he would repeat the routine.
It earned him the nickname, "The Human Rain Delay."
7. Patrick Roy, NHL
When he was just a rookie with the Montreal Canadiens, a reporter noticed that Roy seemed to get a lot of favourable bounces and the puck seemed to often hit the goalposts.
That's because, Roy said, he talks to his posts during the game.
"They are my friends," he said.
Roy's superstitions have been well documented because he is arguably the greatest goaltender to play the game.
Roy, who holds the NHL record for career wins by a netminder, had a set routine before every game.
During the pre-game, he would skate out to the blue-line and stare at the net, envisioning it shrinking. He would also consciously never step on the blue-line or red-line.
8. John McGraw, MLB
Players don't have a monopoly on irrational behaviour just take a look at some of the things John McGraw did in his time as manager of the New York Giants:
The hard-as-nails manager once gave a job to a farmer who couldn't play because he believed the man, named Charlie Faust, was a magnet for good luck. Faust received a tryout when he approached McGraw and told him a fortune teller predicted success for him as a Giants pitcher.
Faust was horrible, but his arrival coincided with a Giants winning streak and he was fitted for a uniform.
McGraw would also pick up hairpins and pennies face up only that he stumbled across in his travels. He once employed a brewery to send a horse-drawn beer wagon across the Polo Grounds for 10 straight days because the first day it happened one of his players had a great day at the plate.
9. Goran Ivanisevic, Tennis
Many athletes call their daily quirks part of their routine, something that's necessary to prepare them for the game.
Ivanisevic, though, readily admits he was superstitious while he was on the court.
The former tennis star would always try to be the second person to get up from his chair on the change-over and would try to never step on any of the lines.
Off the court, he was even worse. If he won a match at a tournament, he would repeat everything from the previous day go to the same restaurant, eat the same food and try to talk to the same people.
"Sometimes, it got very boring," he wrote on his website.
10. Steve Finley/Darin Erstad, MLB
Forget steroids Finley and Erstad have delved into the world of mysticism to generate performance-enhancing powers.
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim teammates have both worn a little leather pouch containing various minerals around their necks to ward off injury and slumps.
Finley got the mysterious pouch from Craig Counsell, then a teammate with the Arizona Diamondbacks, in 2002. He gave it to the injury-prone Erstad this season.
Apparently, the necklace has worked for both players.
As soon as Finley received it three years ago he went on a hot streak, hitting over .350 for the next three months.
Right after he received it from Finley, Erstad went on a hitting streak and was injury free through the first month of the season.
Rituals put you into an optimized performance state.
I'll buy that for a dollar.
Imagine if Georges suddenly found himself in an arm lock on the verge of being submitted...
Georges (reaching with his free hand): "Must twist nipples...forgot to do it earlier...it's my only chance..."
Kind of like the tv cartoon of Hercules where at the critical moment he had to reach to his belt for his ring. Why didn't he just wear the ring all the time? Did it need charging between battles?
After reading a book called Peak Performance I tried using visualization techniques when I competed. I believe it made a difference. When everything else was fine tuned the visualization sessions helped me clarify my overall game plan. In reality, it's just a another word for meditation.