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Sports Superstitions and Rituals

Elizabeth Bingler provides an insight into some of the most bizarre sports superstitions and rituals.

Are you superstitious? It turns out, a lot of the world still holds onto superstitious beliefs, but the percentages greatly vary from country to country. You might know of some of the most common superstitions like knocking on wood, that bad luck comes in threes, and that Friday the 13th is an unlucky day.

But there are plenty more unusual superstitions and rituals around the world — and the sports world is certainly no exception. It is well known for the unusual superstitions that fans, players, and coaches will take part in to ensure that their teams win. At the least, they will help to boost players' confidence, which is extremely important for athletic performance. Here are a few of the most bizarre sports superstitions and rituals from around the world.

Throwing Dead Octopuses for Luck

Since 1952, the Detroit Red Wings have believed that throwing dead octopuses on the ice will help them to win games. It all started when some fans threw a dead octopus — which symbolized the eight wins the team needed to win the Stanley Cup — onto the ice during a playoff game.

They ended up winning the Stanley Cup that year, becoming the first team to play perfectly in the playoffs. Of course, fans credited their win to the throwing of the octopus. They continue to throw octopuses onto the ice to this day, hoping that the ritual will inspire more wins.

Peanuts in the Shell Are Deadly

In the NASCAR world, a widely-believed superstition is that peanuts in the shell are unlucky. NASCAR drivers are known to hate peanuts in their shells (and ban them from being anywhere near them), and most NASCAR events refuse to sell this classic sporting snack.

The origin of this superstition dates back to the 1930s when rumours spread that peanut shells were found in the cars of several drivers who died in crashes.

Keeping Spirits Away with Garlic

Garlic has more uses than keeping vampires away. Football club Deportivo de la Coruña believes that all of their success has come from using garlic during games to keep evil spirits at bay.

To do this, fans place garlic cloves on the home field to improve the team's luck during a match. According to players and fans, this method is the reason the club has won three Spanish Super Cups, two Copa del Rey titles, and one La Liga title.

The Many Uses of Urine

There are more than a few athletes who have performed superstitious rituals involving their urine, but the rituals vary from athlete to athlete. Baseball outfielder Moisés Alou used to pee on his hands before every game because he believed that it hardened his hands and improved his game.

Football manager Barry Fry used to pee on each corner of his team's home stadium to get rid of evil spirits. And MMA fighter Lyoto Machida credits all of his success in the ring to drinking his urine regularly.

Do not Wash Your Socks

Many athletes are known not to wash certain items that they wear on the field, believing that doing so will cause them to play poorly. Tennis star Serena Williams wears the same pair of socks for an entire tournament, thinking that it will help her to perform at her best. She believes that if she changes or washes her socks, she will lose a match. And she must be doing something right since she is one of the best tennis players in the world — and in history.

Shamans Performing Magic on the Field

This is a fairly common ritual performed around the world, particularly with soccer teams. Many teams that want to improve their luck on the field will hire a shaman (or someone similar) to perform rituals to get rid of evil spirits or cast spells to help them win.

For example, Ecuador's national soccer team hired a shaman in 2006 to help them win the World Cup. He appeared at every match to perform magic, and many fans believe that this is what helped Ecuador to do so well (even though they did not win the Cup).

Page Reference

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  • BINGLER, E. (2019) Sports Superstitions and Rituals [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Author

Elizabeth Bingler graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with degrees in English Literature and Fiction Writing. She works as a freelance content writer and editor and has written articles on a wide variety of topics such as technology, sports, business, lifestyle, culture, and travel.