Christmas Music, Twizzlers as well as Long Walks: The N.F.L.’s Obsession With Superstition

from the N.F.L., where the wait between most games can be a long, charged week, tales of eccentric pregame rituals from the final jittery moments before kickoff have become a fabled part of the sport’s lore.

If, for example, a team can be on a win streak, superstitious players might make sure to put on their uniforms exactly as they had in previous weeks: left sock first, then the right sock; left pant leg before the right pant leg, as well as so on.

Or, a motivational sign above the locker room door could be considered a Great-luck charm as well as be tapped, or slapped, as everyone exits the room. A team might also file onto the field from the same numerical order week after week — all from the search of positive juju.

nevertheless which can be the modern N.F.L., a multibillion dollar enterprise celebrating its centennial next season. Surely, mystical rituals are abating from the analytics era, right?

In fact, they are as entrenched as the laces on the football. At best, they are evolving.

Philadelphia center Jason Kelce, for instance, likes to listen to Christmas music before games, even in September.


“To take the seriousness out of things,” Kelce said. “I want to hear something happy. which lets me go back to childhood memories — happy times.”

Kelce did concede he can be listening to less pregame music in an effort to cut back on certain repetitive behaviors, although maybe not for the most obvious reasons.

“My wife can be superstitious enough for both of us,” Kelce said which has a laugh. “If we win a game, she’ll do everything the same which she did the week before. Same routine from the morning at home as the week before. Drive the same route to the stadium as the last week. The whole thing.”

Giants quarterback Eli Manning at first insisted he had no special pregame ritual. Then he remembered the T-shirt he wears under his equipment. During each of the 16 regular season games, Manning wears the same T-shirt. (which can be laundered after each game.)

During the preseason, Manning carefully picks out the T-shirt — by dozens of candidates — which will be his “gamer” undergarment.

“I get which one ready early, just get the sleeves cut to the length I want as well as just make sure which’s comfortable as well as I’m Great with which in all kinds of different ways,” Manning said as if he were explaining how he chose which house to buy as well as live in. “Then which T-shirt can be on the loop going forward. All 16 games.”

He added: “nevertheless I don’t definitely have any superstitions.”

Some players openly acknowledge their devotion to elaborate pregame rituals, including the time-consuming, pedantic left sock/right sock progression which can be apparently still in vogue.

“Those kinds of rituals are still very common,” said Giants long snapper Zak DeOssie, who like Manning can be a 15-year veteran of the N.F.L. “How can you ignore which? Obviously, we’re all professionals as well as work hard to develop certain skills, nevertheless the game can be played which has a funny shaped ball which takes crazy bounces. All of the athleticism from the globe can’t as well as won’t control those bounces.

“So you’re figuratively praying to the football gods, hoping they’ll be on your side which day.”

On the different hand, Washington kicker Dustin Hopkins willfully keeps a higher power in mind before games for a different goal.

On arrival at the stadium, Hopkins gets adjusted by a chiropractor. He then has the strength as well as conditioning coach use a rolling pin-like device to loosen his muscles as well as then takes a shower to make sure he can be, as he said, “awake.”

Hopkins can be also persnickety about double-checking which every helmet chin strap or shoe string can be not worn or frayed. He jogs onto the field as well as warms up with about 30 kicks.

as well as during which entire time — by chiropractor to field goal attempts — he can be praying. Among different things, Hopkins prays for the safety of his teammates, his opponents as well as himself.

The veteran Baltimore safety Eric Weddle, meanwhile, can be purposefully trying to avoid a different longstanding pregame ritual — the on-field scrum where players jump up as well as down in a circle as well as ceremoniously, usually violently, bang into each different.

“which’s one of those pregame football things where guys like to butt heads or slap a helmet, nevertheless I hate when people hit my helmet,” Weddle said. “I tell them to get away by me.

“which’s a ritual nevertheless guys know to keep me out of which. If a rookie or a brand new guy hits my helmet, I tell them right away: ‘Don’t ever do which again.’ I don’t need to get psyched up for the game; I’m already pretty motivated.”

Some players’ rituals are pretty straight forward. Before every game, Giants linebacker Alex Ogletree makes sure he munches by a bag of Twizzlers — as well as only Twizzlers, not some different licorice. Several hours before every game when the grandstands are empty, Washington wide receiver Jamison Crowder methodically walks the length of the stadium field by himself twice. He then sprints across which twice. The goal, he said, can be to feel the karma of the place.

“Each field as well as every stadium has its own feel nevertheless you’ll never grasp which when the place can be full as well as 70,000 people are screaming at you,” Crowder said. “You have to go out when which’s quiet. Just you as well as the field.”

Baltimore receiver Willie Snead does something almost transcendental as well, carefully generating his way around the entire field. which can be a ritual he learned by Jerry Rice, who holds most of the league’s pass-catching records.

“He went onto the field as well as visualized himself generating plays while running certain pass routes,” Snead said of Rice. “which makes you comfortable from the environment.”

There are, however, some players who swear off a pregame routine of any kind.

“I’m afraid a pregame ritual could add to the anxiety of the moment,” Redskins defensive end Ryan Kerrigan said. “What if I decided to eat a certain food before every game nevertheless one week we’re in Philadelphia as well as they don’t have which food? What would certainly I do then? I’d be more stressed.”

nevertheless faith in superstitious customs, something observed in civilizations for many centuries, features a powerful allure. Even the N.F.L.’s game officials are not immune to its pull.

Gene Steratore, a longtime referee until his retirement which season, said which a crew of officials will always dress from the same lockers they used the last time they were assigned to work at which stadium.

“which’s amazing, because you might not have been in which stadium for a while, nevertheless we wouldn’t dare change our habits,” said Steratore, who can be today a CBS rules analyst.

Steratore recalled which one year at Foxboro Stadium in brand new England, a brand new attendant was assigned to the officials’ locker room.

“Before we got there, the attendant put name tags on the lockers for the crew,” Steratore said. “We pulled all the tags off the tops of the lockers as well as arranged them so we were dressing where we always dressed.”

nevertheless Joe Theismann, the former Washington quarterback as well as the N.F.L.’s most valuable player from the 1983 season, said which he believes the N.F.L.’s ritualistic habits, while still patently evident, have ebbed slightly. The players of his era, Theismann insisted, were obsessed with pregame rituals as well as how they could influence the outcome of games.

“Everybody had something they did because which’s a way to get ready for the game,” said Theismann, who played from the N.F.L. for 12 years. “I was probably the most superstitious.”

Early in his career, Theismann played well after having eaten a banana split the night before the game. For more than 150 N.F.L. games thereafter, he insisted on having a banana split the evening before any contest, even if meant going into hotel kitchens as well as generating the dessert himself.

On game days, he also had a meticulous routine for putting on his uniform, as well as he would certainly then lie on a bed of towels he constructed in front of his locker, where he would certainly always read People Magazine cover to cover.

He altered his ritual only once as a pro, in 1985.

“We had a Redskins logo near the locker room door as well as for 12 years on the way out I hit which logo for Great luck as well as never said a word,” Theismann said. “nevertheless on the night I got hurt, I hit which logo — as well as probably because we from the midst of a lousy season — I said: ‘Tonight, your life’s going to change.’ ”

from the game which night against the Giants, Theismann broke his leg in two places. He never played football again.

“which’s interesting to think about which today,” Theismann said. “Changed the routine as well as my life definitely did change completely.”