Comb the newspapers and there is many a mention of celebrity sportsmen and their superstitions. From football to tennis, bowls to athletics, players seem to develop their own strange quirks and rituals to bring them luck.
Many sportsmen will share superstitions that are universal to the game, for instance in baseball, it is thought to be lucky to spit into your hand before picking up the bat, in basket ball a player might wipe the soles of their sneakers for good luck, bowlers will carry charms in their pockets or bowling bag, footballers have their mascots and tennis players might avoid stepping on the court lines.
Football and Superstition
Football is a sport full of superstitious celebrities. In the early 1970s, manager of Leeds United, Don Revie would wear the same lucky blue suit for years. He had a superstitious fear of ornamental elephants and believing birds to be unlucky, he had an owl removed from the Leeds Club crest.
Kolo Toure of Arsenal always waits to leave the dressing room last but in order to stick with his ritual in a Champions League match in February 2009, he had to wait until a team-mate received treatment. The match was started without the pair and Toure was booked for sneaking back onto the pitch!
John Terry, England and Chelsea’s Captain John Terry claims to have dozens of superstitions including listening to a particular CD before a match, parking in the same parking place in the club’s car park, always wearing the same pair of shin pads and sitting on the same seat on the team’s coach.
England’s Captain in the 1960s and 1970s, Bobby Moore would insist on being the last person into the changing room to put his shorts on before a match.
David Beckham and Superstition
David Beckham’s superstitious tendencies keeps him wearing long sleeves and a fresh pair of boots to every game while Gary Lineker, England’s most prolific striker would have a ritual that if there were no goals in the first half of the match he would change his shirt. If, however, he scored a goal in the first 45 minutes, he’d keep the same shirt on for the whole of the match!
Tennis players too can be incredibly superstitious. Venus Williams, for instance believes her pet dog Bobby to be her lucky mascot. Serena Williams wears the same socks throughout a whole tournament and Andre Agassi will not serve until all the ball boys have returned to their original position.
Professional bowler Peter David Weber, nicknamed PDW falls back on a number of superstitious rituals when bowling including: folding his towel the same way on every game, not allowing his wife to wear red when she is on the TV and sitting in the same place, the same way when the game is going well.
Sportsmen and Supernatural Beliefs
There are countless sportsmen who rely on their supernatural beliefs to give them a psychological boost. An explanation as to why celebrity sports people are superstitious is, according to Dr Tony Westbury of Napier Univeristy because if a certain behaviour gets a pleasurable outcome then this strengthens the link between the behaviour and the result. He explains, “You get into the habit of doing something because it is associated with winning…” and this routine becomes very hard to break.
Indeed, missing the start of a match because a ritual must be followed at all costs as in the case of Kolo Toure suggests some superstitious behaviours are likely to have the opposite effect to the anticipated one and can lead the player into trouble!
Sportsmen May 10 2009-10-13
Times on Line