The other day I got to thinking about pregame rituals and superstitions of athletes. It’s difficult to decipher the line between a routine and a superstition. Regardless of how you feel about them, most athletes partake in some type of ritual in one way or another.
UNC is an incredibly superstitious institution. From the students and fans, to the coaches and players, the program is full of superstitions. Let’s take a look into some of the stranger things UNC basketball players and coaches have done to help give themselves what they consider an extra edge.
I couldn’t start this list off without first mentioning Woody Durham. Woody was the beloved play-by-play radio announcer for the Tar Heels football and basketball teams from 1971 to 2011. One of Durham’s favorite sayings when UNC was down and needed a score was “it’s time to go where you go, and do what you do.” This saying essentially meant that it was time for fans to do whatever lucky things they did in order to help the Tar Heels win. How much more superstitious can you get?
Roy Williams is so superstitious. How superstitious is he? He’s so superstitious that he has been known to spit into the Mississippi River for good luck during NCAA tournament runs. He’s so superstitious that he will re-wear a suit if that’s the suit he was wearing when his team beat the opposing team the last time they played. To drive this point home further he has been quoted as saying if they lose, he will take said suit and, “hang it out for the mailman to give to somebody.” This may be Ole’ Roy being Ole’ Roy, but if he stops wearing a suit every time they lose, that’s 108 suits he has gotten rid of over his tenure at UNC, and 209 suits he has gotten rid of over his entire coaching career.
Roy Williams is so superstitious that he wears the exact same outfit to every practice. He’s so superstitious that if they lose, he doesn’t wear the same tie ever again. He’s so superstitious that before games, when he walks into the locker room, he must have his hand on a player’s shoulder. He’s so superstitious that he only uses blue markers on whiteboards. The point is, he’s really, really superstitious. When asked to name all the superstitious/rituals that he does, he responded that he would have to miss practice to list them all. That’s how superstitious Roy Williams is.
Unlike Coach Williams, Coach Dean Smith was not a very superstitious person. The only real superstition he had was to not get a haircut on game day. I don’t see why he or anyone else would though. Seems like a busy day to schedule such an unimportant event like a haircut.
I’m sure many of you know by now that MJ wore his Carolina shorts underneath his NBA shorts for every game he played in. Although Jordan didn’t do this while at UNC, his superstition of wearing his Carolina basketball shorts underneath his Bulls shorts has become one of the most famous sports superstitions of all time. It most likely also led to the trend the Bulls started, which was to wear baggier shorts. These baggier shorts would allow Michael to wear his shorter UNC shorts underneath without them showing at all.
Another ritual it is said that Jordan had was to wear a brand new pair of Jordans every game. He has been quoted as saying he went through over 150 pairs a season. He did this to “get that exciting feeling you get when you first put on a new pair of Jordans.” Every. Single. Game.
Marcus Paige’s superstition became heightened during the NCAA Tournament last year. He would have his shooting shirt hand washed and hang-dried separately from the rest of the team’s laundry. It started during the ACC tournament when Paige forgot to toss his shooting shirt into the laundry basket, forcing the student manager to wash it by hand. The Heels won the ACC tournament so he kept the tradition alive.
In 1982 when Carolina won their regional in the NCAA Tournament, Worthy refused to cut down the net. The year before he cut it down and they lost in the championship game to Indiana. He “didn’t want to jinx himself,” and was quoted as saying he, “would cut it down in New Orleans.” Which is what he did when UNC won the program’s second NCAA National Championship that year.
Hansbrough had two superstitions he swore by. He had to make two free throws before each game, and he wouldn’t allow himself to sign any autographs on game day. The first seems easy, the second was probably more difficult as his career went on at UNC.
Athletes may have their superstitions, but what about the students and fans? We know that students are said to drink from the Old Well the first day of class in order to achieve a 4.0 GPA. What about the fans though? Do any of you guys have any superstitions that you think help the Tar Heels win?
For example, I have a lucky pair of UNC socks that I wear for every game during basketball season. Three games in five days has caused them to become pretty gross, but they are 3-0 and you’re all welcome for the correlation between the record and my socks. What superstitions and rituals do you guys have? Let us know in the comments below.