A matter of superstition

given to him by his Mom, broke nine games ago. His superstitious side tells him as soon as it's fixed and he has it around his neck, FIRE luck will change. Thankfully, Craig's due to pick up the chain this weekend.

I don't think Craig really believes there's a connection between the chain and the FIRE's winless stretch. But game-to-game, I've found that players, coaches, administrators and even some broadcasters incorporate a little quirkiness into their routines as a matter of superstition.

FIRE veteran Andy Williams told me the same watch and earrings he wears to every game must be placed in the left shoe and stored in his locker during a match. You might find it interesting that Andy balances his superstition with faith as he spends time reading the Bible before each game too.

Kelly Gray admits to having to put on his left sock, left shoe and left shinguard, before he puts on his right-sided gear. He said he's done that for years and he can't pinpoint its origin.

Both Gray and Evan Whitfield point-out that meals and restaurants are an important part of their game week/day rituals. Kelly is a big fan of the Flat Top Grill and Nookie's when the FIRE plays at home; while Evan can be found enjoying breakfast at Ann Sather's and lunch at Santulo's. They say the same restaurants/menus/meals have become routine: "You don't have to think about anything else."

Evan draws additional comfort from acting on the phrase "Knock on wood." His Mom introduced it to him as a boy and to this day, Evan will reinforce his run of good fortune by knocking on wood -- whether it's a lockerroom bench on game day or a piece of furniture at home.

Some players are superstitious when it comes to talking about superstitions. Goalkeeper D.J. Countess admitted to being superstitious, but declined comment on specifics.

A quick survey of team administrators shows it's not just players looking to influence outcomes with quirky behavior. Assistant Coach Denis Hamlett must have Famous Amos cookies before each match, Head Equipment Manager Charles Raycroft always drinks a can of Pepsi during halftime and Team Operations Manager Ron Stern never sat on the team bench during the '98 season -- which he "casually" maintains is directly related to the FIRE winning the US Open Cup and MLS Cup that year.

Though my role with the team requires a certain amount of impartiality, I have to admit to purposely changing my pregame ritual a few weeks ago when the FIRE played the CREW in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.

In previous CREW meetings this year (both FIRE losses), I visited briefly with Columbus coach Greg Andrulis in the locker room and concluded each time with a handshake and a polite wish of "good luck" in the match.

This time through, I fooled myself in to thinking I could influence the outcome of the team's third game of the season so I avoided the CREW locker room altogether and the Fire won 2-1.

Whether it's superstition or plain quirkiness, it seems to me we turn to these behaviors more often during extreme conditions. And given the FIRE's current frustrations, it might be a good idea for us all to grab a rabbit's foot before that Aug. 11 date with San Jose at Soldier Field.

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