Black Cats and Voodoo Dolls

Bats, they are sick. I cannot hit curveball. Straightball I hit it very much. Curveball, bats are afraid. I ask Jobu to come, take fear from bats. I offer him cigar, rum. He will come. ~Pedro Cerrano, “Major League”

Yo, bartender, Jobu needs a refill!


Sports and superstition go together like, well, old socks and fungal infections. You get on a hitting streak, you refuse to cut your hair or wear anything but your lucky T-shirt. If you’re a quarterback on a hot streak, maybe you refuse to eat anything other than PBJs. Hockey players grow beards during playoff season. And on and on it goes. Players and coaches have lucky mascots, talismans, favorite meals, old clothes slowly turning into rags. I’m just as guilty as charges. A long time ago, when I still actually played sports on a competitive level, I engaged in some of the most bizarre rituals if I thought they meant it would bring victory. Before basketball games, I would chug down jars of pickle juice. On the hockey rink, I refused to lace skates with odd numbers of grommets. I said prayers in Latin when on the field hockey pitch. And yes, when I played baseball and softball, I made my own version of the infamous “Jobu” doll. (Jobu, it turns out, never brought me much luck. Maybe it was because I didn’t have any actual rum to offer him.)

Since it’s Friday the 13th and all, I decided to make a list of some of the most bizarre and esoteric sports superstitions out there. Some of you who are athletes, or know athletes, may know a few of these well. Others, I’d never heard of. There are some famous people and some not-so-famous who are pretty superstitious out there. I simply had no idea. Next time I walk under a ladder with a black cat and some spilled salt, I’ll be thinking of this list.

General Superstitions

If a dog walks across the diamond before the first pitch, bad luck is not far behind. (Baseball)

When a pitcher is tossing a no-hitter, never speak of it while it’s going on. (Baseball)

The last player to take a shot at the end of warmups will have a great game. (Basketball)

Spit on your bait before casting your rod for a better catch. (Fishing)

Double numbers (66, 88, etc.) are especially good luck. (Football)

Always start with an odd-number club. (Golf)

Never say the word “shutout” in the locker room before the game. (Hockey)

Do not wear anything yellow; it’s bad luck. (Tennis)

Broader Superstitions and Jinxes

The Sports Illustrated Cover jinx. Of course, everybody who’s ever appeared on the cover of SI has been immediately jinxed. Recent high-profile “victims,” however, have included pitcher Stephen Strasburg, quarterbacks Michael Vick and Jay Cutler, skiier Lindsey Vonn, point guard John Wall, and forward Jimmer Fredette.

The Madden NFL cover jinx. For all you video gamers out there, this one’s hard to deny. Many of the cover players have dive-bombed after pitching the popular game. If you don’t believe me, just ask Eddie George (Titans, ’01), Daunte Culpepper (Vikings, ’02), Michael Vick (Falcons, ’04), Donovan McNabb (Eagles, ’06), Shaun Alexander (Seahawks, ’07), Vince Young (Titans, ’08). The Madden Curse was so widely known that then-San Diego Charger LaDainian Tomlinson’s fans sent around a petition in 2007 asking the running back not to appear on the cover.

The Curse of San Diego. I had to include this one (sorry, all of you from Buffalo.) San Diego has the dubious distinction of being the largest American city with no major sports championships. The last one was the Chargers’ 1963 crown in the now-defunct AFL. There’s been a plethora of letdowns, almosts, and heartbreakers in those 50 years of history. As a fan of both the Padres (who are the only MLB team to have no no-hitters or players hitting for the cycle) and Chargers (who could write an entire book on bad luck and terrible twists of fate), I feel compelled to include this one. For those of you who may not know, San Diego is a great place anyway. Who really cares about sports championships when there’s great weather, surfing and fish tacos to spare?

The Curse of the Billy Goat/Chicago Cubs Curse. If you don’t know about this one, you probably don’t care about sports. As comedian Billy Crystal once quipped, everybody’s entitled to a bad century. Even the rival White Sox have since broken their curse. On the North Side, it’s strictly misery, futility, and lovable losers.

Uber-Superstitious Athletes

Moises Alou (Baseball): Unlike the vast majority of hitters, eschewed batting gloves in favor of bare hands (said to have been conditioned with his own urine.) That’s not just superstitious, it’s disgusting.

John Henderson (Football): After a 2003 incident in the locker room to get amped up for a game, the 6’7″ lineman has an assistant coach slap him hard in the face before every contest.

Patrick Roy (Hockey): The Hall of Fame goaltender often got lucky bounces off posts, and was once quoted as saying he spoke to the pipes because “…they are my friends.” Roy also never consciously skated over red or blue lines, which is pretty hard to do for any hockey player.

Jason Giambi (Baseball): Longtime slugger Giambi, former New York Yankee, reportedly “solved” hitting slumps by wearing a “golden man-thong” underneath his uniform. I’d like to see that bobble-head doll on giveaway day.

Georges St. Pierre (Ultimate Fighting): Apparently tweaks his own nipples before bouts. I would be curious, but wouldn’t dare ask the guy to his face why he does this.

Mike Bibby (Basketball): Obsessively clips, or has his fingernails clipped on the bench during games. It seems to work, as Bibby has made over 1300 3-pointers in his career with the Atlanta Hawks.

Tiger Woods (Golf): Famous for his red shirts on Sundays (a nod to his alma mater, Stanford,) Woods is now perhaps best known for being caught red-handed. Maybe he should wear a scarlet letter “W” for “washed up.”

And if you’re looking for a good throwback flick with some supersitions, why not try:

Major League: Pedro Cerrano’s devotion to Jobu, the voodoo god of something or other, along with “keeping bats warm” with golf club covers,

Caddyshack: Golfer Ty Webb’s Zen-like advice to “stop thinking, and simply *be* the ball,”

Slap Shot: Those wacky Hanson Brothers and their aluminum foil trick…which really does work!

Got some favorite superstitions of your own, from your glory days? Let me know!

~ by Howlin' Mad Heather on May 14, 2011.

3 Responses to “Black Cats and Voodoo Dolls”

  1. It’s funny because I’ve always dismissed superstitions like many of the ones mentioned here are silly notions that are completely irrational, but I still find myself somewhat unnerved when I walk through my house when its completely dark… and empty. I do know no ones in the house, yet I’m still scared and feel the need to run to the nearest room and turn on a light. Who knows, maybe a dark house is like a dog walking over the diamond for me.

    Superstitions and rituals are strange and pretty much pointless in most cases, but I find myself referencing and abiding by them almost every day.

  2. Agreed! Superstitions are some kind of connection to our primal past (like dogs turning around three times before sleep, perhaps.) They may be irrational and even silly, but we stick to them anyway. Who really knows why?

  3. Tiger woods is one of the best golf players ever, he is my idol. *

    <a href="Our blog

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