by Stal Herz - 01/27/2006
You would think that the Pittsburg Steelers coaching staff would be trying to gain every advantage over the Seahawks in the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, but one of the first decisions that had to be made was about fashion.
Bill Cower could have elected to go with the traditional Black and Yellow home jerseys that they were entitled to as the home team, but he decided not to break their three-game playoff winning streak, and, as he sees it, "It's still a road game."
They will wear white.
With the immense pressure put on athletes to perform at peak level at all times, they often turn to divine intervention. With so many turning to God, the big Guy or Gal or It up there find they have little sports intervention to spread around.
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Athletes then begin to create their own religion in the form of sports superstitions.
Here's tip of the looking glass at what has been done to keep the karma clean and avoid the dreaded curse.
Mark Grace, on repeated occasions, has talked about streak busting. This is when the players who are mired in a loosing streak or a serious hitting drought go out to a bar and find the, um, lady with the "best personality" who isn't afraid to finish a meal and sacrifice his earthly desires for some loving on the old ball field.
No player from any sport ever puts their hat on the bed. Why? Sleep in ancient times was related to death, so laying your lid on the mattress could result in the deterioration of skills and bring a quick end to the season.
In the Rodeo world, most cowboys shave themselves (the beards - no Broke Back) before they go out to battle with the bulls to make themselves presentable for Lady Luck should she choose to arrive.
Often times, superstitions are created by happenings that have nothing to do with the sport itself, much like the sports superstition in baseball that you are never supposed to step on either foul line. This was originally done as a sign of respect from the ballplayers to the grounds crew.
Entire teams often buy into the strange voodoo that hangs over the human exercise of gamming. Take the Salt Lake Trappers of the independent league, who went on a 27 game winning streak and never changed their socks during the period of perfection.
Superstitions can be NAS TE'!
For football players, it is usually thought to be taboo to take a new number when going to another team, which is why big money is often spent in keeping those magic digits.
Next time you're at an arena watching the Association (after you take a mortgage out on the home and half a kid), take a look at the team during warm-ups. Usually, the star player takes the last shot because the basketball gods are looking down and bestowing the best game on the last shooter. If a ball boy makes the shot, he'll get a cheerleader's number.
While it started out a method to dry their hands, touching the souls of your sneaks before you take a big free throw is always thought to bring about the good fortunes of the immortals. Each player has something different they do.
Somewhere Howard Hughes is laughing at Cleveland Indian pitcher Kevin Romberg who, if you touched him, had to touch you back - even you were on the opposing team. Teammates were relentless in teasing this kid, sometimes reaching under the bathroom stall to touch his toe. He would run frantically throughout the dugout looking for the toucher, having to go through each member of the team before he felt at ease.
NHL goalies are known to talk to their goals, soothing them, and making sure that they feel protected before a game. Next time you're at a rink, check out what the goalie does to prepare their heads to have speeding pieces of rubber shot at them.
If you're an athlete on the road, picking up a penny is supposed to show the controlling forces that you're not above accepting the smallest gift as if it were gold.
Wade Bogs took batting practice at exactly 5:17 or 7:17 depending on the game time to go along with his chicken meals.
Nascar fans, even though Fox forgot you, we didn't. When spinning around those tracks, you will never see peanuts being eaten, as one time a driver who was eating them crashed and died, causing a furor about peanuts and elephants at the race track.
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Soccer players usually step onto the field with their right foot. Started in the Italian leagues, this was done to emulate the way the Romans did it. Great lead, the Romans, we're all following you.
So why do they do it?
The mental edge gives one the advantage, as the physical can always be matched.
Traditions are born out of creativity and invention. Sports superstitions only last until they are replaced with a more powerful spiritual force. To create that, one must believe that they have tapped into the supernatural.
The athlete has done just that.