Studies have shown that uncertainty breeds superstition and athletes especially are known for this. All over the world, athletes practice habits and rituals (or unusual superstitions) that they believe will put them in a better position to win every time. Many iconic 80s athletes were no different. For instance, the up-and-coming heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson received a call from Joan Jett before his winning fight with Larry Sims. Thereafter, Tyson insisted on getting pre-fight calls from her. A break in tradition against Buster Douglas on February 11, 1990, was his first loss.
Tyson photo Source: Wikimedia

Hockey players are also quite superstitious. The “playoff beard” has become a ritual for many sportsmen, which was thought to have begun with the 1980s NHL players the New York Islanders. Not shaving worked for them during their Stanley Cup run in the 1980s when they won four Cups in four years, which only boosted their confidence and further propelled the superstition.

ice hockey
Source: Wikimedia

Stan Mikita, formerly of the Chicago Black Hawks, would ritualistically have a cigarette between periods and then toss the butt over his left shoulder before returning to the ice. He finished his career with 541 goals and 1,467 points. Patrick Roy, another professional ice hockey goaltender, would talk to his posts, once telling a reporter that he felt their conversations helped him play better. It first “happened” during the national anthems in the 1986 Stanley Cup Playoffs and then sure of himself, Roy went on to win four Stanley Cups and three Vezina Trophies after continuing the tradition.

Stan Makita
Source: Wikimedia

The “Great One” Wayne Gretzky also had numerous rituals. Namely, he always put his equipment on in the same order in a particular way. He also always made his first warm-up shot to the extreme right of the goal and would then return to the dressing room and drink a Diet Coke, a glass of ice water then a Gatorade…… sometimes followed by another Coke. Who would dare question these habits with his impressive scorecard?
Kansas City Royals baseball player Bo Jackson’s pre-game ritual included shooting arrows on an improvised clubhouse range. His teammates, apparently willing to take one for the team, sometimes allowed him to shoot apples out of their hands. Over in the NBA, players eventually adopted Michael Jordan’s habit of wearing long shorts, a less risky show of team support. Jordan would wear his blue UNC shorts under his NBA shorts.

Source: Flickr

Martina Navratilova also had an outfit superstition, always wearing the same pair of diamond earrings during a tournament with a green dress on the last day.

Source: Wikimedia

In the mid-1980s, there was a decades-old superstition that re-emerged. In 1945, William Sianis, owner of the Billy Goat Tavern, took his pet goat to the game. Tossed out because the goat smelled like — well, a goat! — allegedly declared “…The Cubs will never win a World Series so long as the goat is not allowed in Wrigley Field”. And they didn’t. In 1984, his relative Sam Sianis and his goat were invited to the Cubs’ opening. Sam raised his hat and said, “The curse is lifted”. The Cubs won their way to their first post season game and division title after the long drought. They just needed to win one of the next three games to finally reach the World Series, but the goat was left behind and the Cubs lost to the San Francisco Giants four games to one.

Source: Wikimedia

Outcomes are unpredictable but athletes and fans try to influence the results by adopting some superstitious behavior as a means of control, even if it means paying homage to a farm animal. As it reduces anxiety, it also helps the athlete to focus on the game and ultimately achieve success. If it results in winning, what’s the harm?