The Most Bizarre Rituals In Sports

Ah, sports. The majesty. The drama. The...dead octopus flying out of the sky? Yes, while the actual games are fun, maybe the most fun thing about sports is just how crazy players and fans get about sports. Sure, we all have our own little superstitions—Uncle Mike always has to sit in the easy chair when the Bears are playing, and you gotta wear your lucky socks that you haven't washed since 1985. But some people just take things to a new level of insanity. Here's a look at some of the most bizarre rituals in sports history.

The New Zealand All Blacks haka

The pre-game dance routine performed by the All Blacks, New Zealand's national rugby team, may or may not be the strangest ritual in sports, but it's inarguably the coolest. Called the haka, the ritual made world famous by the team is actually an ancient war dance created by New Zealand's indigenous Maori people. It involves rhythmic chanting, thigh slapping, chest pounding, and aggressively sticking out your tongue. It also led to what is probably one of the most goosebump-inducing moments in sports: the infamous 2008 staredown against a defiant Wales team.Pure sports magic right there.

The Detroit Red Wings and their dead octopus fetish

Here's how this story goes. Once upon a time, it took eight playoff wins to earn the Stanley Cup. So in 1952, a couple guys who owned a fish market smuggled a dead octopus into a Red Wings playoff game and threw it on the ice, with each rubbery appendage supposedly symbolizing one of those wins. Detroit ended up going a perfect 8-0, and a tradition unlike any other—thank Cthulhu—was born. Now you can hardly watch a Red Wings game in peace without fear of being beaned in the dome with an airborne cephalopod.

Sergio Goycochea really needs to pee...

Sergio Goycochea might not be a household name in America, but he's a beloved figure in Argentina for his heroics as a goalkeeper for the Argentine National Soccer team. During the 1990 World Cup, he famously saved penalty kicks in two different games to preserve wins. Saving penalty kicks in soccer, of course, is nearly impossible. So what was his secret? Well, he had a ritual: before every penalty kick he'd surreptitiously drop trou and take a whiz right there on the field. When you gotta go, you gotta go?

…And Lyoto Machida and Moises Alou also enjoy their own urine

Goycochea is hardly the only athlete to have a bizarre ritual involving urine, though. In fact, his behavior seems almost quaint compared to the rituals of MMA fighter Lyoto Machida and former Major League Baseball star Moises Alou. Machida, you see, has a habit of drinking his own pee every morning. Alou, on the other hand, didn't go quite that crazy; instead, he merely bathed his hands in his own urine before each game to keep his skin supple. Yeah.

Those majestic playoff beards

Perhaps the most endearing ritual in sports is the National Hockey League's playoff beards. Supposedly begun by the legendary New York Islanders squad of the early 1980s, I have a suspicion it actually began way back when the first yeti invented hockey in ancient Canada. One of the best things about the tradition of not shaving during the playoffs is that it's easily adaptable to any situation that requires good fortune, not just sports. I'm still rocking a playoff beard I originally grew for finals week my senior year of high school.

NASCAR hates peanuts!

NASCAR hates peanuts. Like, really, really hates peanuts. And no, it's not because they don't like Snoopy or something, it's for a much more sensible, logical reason: because drivers believe eating peanuts will literally kill you. This superstition reportedly dates back to two fatal wrecks in 1937. The only evidence found in both crashes? Peanut shells. As a result, NASCAR drivers ban peanuts from the race track, just in case there's a particularly violent legume with their name on it. Better safe than sorry?

Les Miles eats grass!

It sounds like the punchline to a particularly weird yo mama joke: yo mama eats grass! But if yo mama happens to be Louisiana State University head football coach Les Miles, it's literally true. That's because Miles ritualistically eats grass before every game. "I have a little tradition that humbles me as a man, that lets me know that I'm a part of the field and part of the game," Miles explained. Sounds like maybe he's been smoking more grass than eating it.

Witch Doctors: employ at your own risk

If there's one proven rule about soccer, it's that you should use witch doctors at your own risk. On the plus side, there's the case of Ecuador, which employed an official team witch doctor named Tzamarenda Naychapi to exorcise evil spirits during their successful run into the second round of the 2006 World Cup. On the negative side? Zimbabwe, which in 2008 decided to cleanse the team's juju with a mystic mass baptism in a nearby river. Unfortunately, when the players came out of the water, one was missing—and was never found. Guess it's safer to just pee on yourself after all.