Professional Athletes – as their adoring public, we look on as these gods among men, and women, who have honed their natural abilities perform for us. We cheer for them, covet their lives, money, and long to bear their children. But do we ever stop and think of the dedication that is required of them?

Combined with the stress and strain of competition, the mental component has got to be enough to knock a few screws loose. Enough, I would think, to develop a number of ticks, rituals, and superstitions.

My primary example is a young, shut-down defensemen with the Florida Panthers, with a rocket-hard shot from the point, who for this writing shall remain nameless – Erik Gudbranson. Without fail, he ensures that he is the last man on his team to leave the ice. Should he not be on the ice at the conclusion of a period, he’ll jump over the boards, and join the end of the line.

About midway through this NHL season, I began to ask myself, superstition or OCD? The end of the regular season had me thinking, perhaps I should look in the mirror.

Aren’t I the one that arranges my life to be sitting in my lucky season seat – 10 minutes before warm-ups – for every game, rain, ( I can’t in all honesty include hail, sleet, or snow – they are the Florida Panthers, after all, and play in Sunrise, FL). Even on that fateful night when involved in a car accident en route to the game, instead of an ambulance, I asked the Florida Highway Patrol to send me a cab so I could go to the game. (Panthers -1, Camaro-totaled). I was also admitted to the hospital hours after a game with Pneumonia. Yes, I felt like crap during, but leaving was never an option.

So when do sports superstitions bleed into obsessive compulsive disorders? The line is blurrier than you may think. I was surprised to read that the definition of OCD states that, “the person usually recognizes that the behavior is excessive or unreasonable.” And where superstitions and OCD deviate is that a person with OCD feels that the stakes are much worse than a win or a loss. What you have to ask yourself is, is this behavior interfering with your life?(Hmmm, I may be in trouble here.)

According to Today Health, in an article written by Melissa Dahl of NBC News, OCD can be a serious, potentially debilitating anxiety disorder that shouldn’t be taken lightly. But specifically, there are some parallels between sports superstitions and an aspect of OCD psychologists call “hyper-responsibility obsessions”, in the processing.

In my humble translation, it somehow causes both to feel responsible for the bad outcome.

All that aside, sports superstitions have basic rules:

1. Additions and subtractions are made at the start of the season. When you find something that works – you never change it.

2. If you try to change it – even tweak it – your team will lose.

3. It’s only weird if it doesn’t work.

For those of you thinking, WHAT??? What this means is:

* Don’t wash my lucky socks during season.

* Don’t touch the remote during the game (it’s exactly where it has it be).

* Don’t say “It’s good!” before a field goal actually is.

* Don’t move the dog, (he knows where to sit during a game).

* Don’t comment on how well our goalie is doing with under a minute left.

* Don’t answer the phone, door, or anything else that rings, or buzzes.

* Don’t say, don’t ever say, “Don’t worry.”

* Don’t offer me Paxil. It only makes me say things twice.

To let you know that I’m not singling you out, Erik, I found other professional athletes with superstitious rituals of their own. There were many. Here are some I could print:

– Jason Terry from the NBA wears 5 pair of socks during games, all pulled to his knees. What’s stranger, the night before a game, he wears the shorts of the opposing team to bed.

– John Henderson, a defensive tackle, had to have the assistant team trainer slap him across the face before every game when he played for the Jacksonville Jaguars. He now plays for the Oakland Raiders. Does the saga continue in shades of silver and black?

– In 1996, during Bruce Gardiner’s rookie season, he was told by a teammate that in order to break out of a scoring slump, he needed to show his hockey stick who was boss. Gardiner began dunking his stick blade in the locker room toilet before each game. (Can I hear a collective eww!!!)

– Michael Jordon never hit the court without his UNC trunks under his Bulls uniform.

– Going way back, Babe Ruth always made sure to step on second base whenever he jogged in from right field. If he forgot, he would run out from the dugout and kick it before the next half inning began.

– NHL Goalies – I could write an entire blog on their quirks alone. But, the Flyers Pelle Lindbergh, would always wear the same orange T-shirt from a Swedish store under his equipment. When it began to fall apart, he hired someone to sew it. What’s more, between periods, he would only drink a Swedish beverage called Pripps, served by a specific team trainer, in a cup with exactly 2 ice cubes.

By now, I’m sure you understand, Erik, that I wouldn’t care if you employed UBER to assist you from the ice – as long as you returned. You’re exciting to watch and the Panthers need you.

And when the fall returns, I’ll be there, in my lucky seat. And this year the Stanley Cup will be ours ….I have a new pair of earrings that say so.

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Have a comment? From The Point Always, Lori Flynn