That lucky little red potato

Peter Kazakis

Hannah Wright poses with her lucky red potato before her game last weekend.

Many of the greatest athletes have had the weirdest superstitions.

Hockey Hall of Fame member Patrick Roy used to verbally converse with the goal-posts on his nets. Wayne Gretzky, “The Great One,” used to have a diet coke, then an ice water, then a Gatorade in between periods.

Five-time NBA MVP Michael Jordan always wore his lucky college basketball shorts under his NBA uniform. Tennis legend Serena Williams brings her shower sandals to the court, ties her shoelaces a specific way, and bounces the ball five times before her first serve (and twice before her second serve).

Whether it’s a big test or a big game, a little good luck can go a long way.

When asked about his game-day superstitions, Castleton senior soccer player Eric Cross explained that a few things must be done, as if religion, to make sure his team earns a victory that day.

First comes two packages of red Welches fruit snacks. That’s 100 percent of Cross’ needs for Vitamin C, and 25 percent of both vitamins A and E. He takes three Advils before game-time, and for two seasons Cross has sported a mohawk for good luck.  

But the real clock work, the real magic, has to do with his shin-guards and cleats. The Morrisvile, Vermont native says sternly, “left first for shin-guards, right first for cleats.”

Castleton hockey players Sam Pion and Hannah Wright are also on board with being meticulous about putting on equipment. “I always put on my gear the exact same way, every time,” says Wright. “It’s usually right first for putting everything on, but I have to actually tie my left skate before my right skate,” explains Pion.

Pion and Wright also have specific, lucky game-day outfits that they wear, including lucky Under Armor. Lastly, Pion said, are the lucky Livestrong bracelets, a different one for practice, for home-games and for away-games.

Senior hockey player Ben Bauer prefers not to have many “game-day rituals,” as religious routines could possibly work against your mental focus. “If you don’t do everything exactly right, it could mess with your head,” Bauer explains.

Good luck is nothing to mess around with.

Dr. Paul van Lange is a professor of psychology at VU University Amsterdam. He co-authored a paper titled, “The Psychological Benefits of Superstitious Rituals in Top Sport: A Study Among Top Sportspersons.” The paper was published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology in 2006. Game-day rituals and superstitions act as a psychological placebo, says van Lange. “They help people cope with uncertain outcomes in the future, especially if these outcomes are important to them,” he argues.

Wright’s most serious game-day placebo deals with the contents of her breakfast, but it’s not about the eggs, or even the toast she eats.

It’s about the “one red potato, sliced up into little cubes for home fries,” Wright said, imitating the procedure with her hands, visualizing dicing up the vegetable.

she also makes it clear that nothing but ketchup can adorn her red game-day breakfast potato.

She smiles, confirming, “it’s very systematic.”

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