What would sports be without their traditions? Boring, that’s what. For players and fans alike, unique sports traditions add to the magic of the experience. They don’t always make sense. But they don’t have to! That’s why they’re great.
Sometimes, though, the best traditions go completely sideways. The results can be hilarious, controversial, and sometimes downright cringe-inducing.
Here are a few sports and the infamous moments when their traditions went off the rails!
Baseball: The 50 Cent Pitch
The ceremonial first pitch is a time-worn tradition almost as old as baseball itself.
From heads of state to pop stars, famous people have thrown out first pitches since 1890.
First pitches are rarely expected to be good pitches (though some are!). But few have been as hilariously bad as the pitch rapper 50 Cent (aka Curtis Jackson) threw out at a New York Mets game in 2014. I mean, it doesn’t take a baseball expert to see how bad it was:
He managed to laugh it off afterwards, which is admirable. But 50’s baseball career ended up being even shorter than his rap career – an impressive feat!
Football: Premature Shirt Swap
One of the greatest of all sports traditions is the shirt swap in football. Shirt swapping began in 1931 as a show of respect between opposing players.
The swap has since become a major post-match tradition. But sometimes players get a little eager to make the trade.
In the case of Arsenal’s Andre Santos, this obsession can go too far. During a 2012 match between Arsenal and Manchester United, Santos swapped shirts with Man U’s Robin van Persie.
Problem was, Santos didn’t bother to wait until the end of the match. In anticipation of being subbed out for the game’s second half, Santos asked van Persie to swap at halftime.
Fans were incensed, as Van Persie had recently left Arsenal for the rival club. Worse still, Santos seemed more focused on the memento than on his performance.
His coach was no less unhappy. Following the match, Santos lost his starting spot on the team. His stint with Arsenal ended several months later when he was loaned to another team. Oops!
Ice Hockey: The Catfish Toss
File this one under “weird sports traditions”. Since the 1950s, fans of the Detroit Red Wings hockey club have tossed octopuses onto the ice at Joe Louis Arena. It’s a superstition thought to bring playoff success.
Well, this superstition might actually work, because the Red Wings are one of hockey’s most successful teams.
Inspired by that success, other teams’ fans have started tossing other marine animals onto the ice.
Take Jacob Waddell, a die-hard fan of the Nashville Predators team. For a championship game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, he threw a catfish onto the ice. In Pittsburgh.
Fans were not amused. And neither were the authorities.
Waddell was arrested and charged with several misdemeanor offenses in Pittsburgh.
The charges were later dropped, but not before his beloved Predators lost the series to Pittsburgh!
Rugby: Haka vs Chabal
The Haka is perhaps the most famous tradition in rugby. It’s synonymous with the All Blacks, New Zealand’s national team, who have performed it since 1905.
The All Blacks begin every important match with this traditional Māori war dance. The Haka is meant to intimidate the opposing team and inspire courage and strength for the players.
But if there’s anyone who wouldn’t be bowed by the fierce Haka, it’s former French rugby star Sébastien Chabal, aka “the Caveman”. When it comes to terrifying physical intimidation, Chabal’s got a real knack for it!
He put this good talent to use in 2007, when the French national side faced the All Blacks in the World Cup Quarter Finals.
As intimidating as the Haka can be, it’s hard to not get a little psyched out by this sight:
The move seemed to have worked, as the French side won a narrow victory. Fortunately for the All Blacks, Chabal has since retired from his rugby career!
When you’re at a sporting event anything can happen. Whether you see an iconic performance or take part in the enjoyable sports traditions, nothing beats the thrill of being there.