Weirdest Things Athletes Do

Let's check out the weirdest things athletes do!


With superhuman levels of talent, athleticism and competitive drive, professional athletes are pretty far from being regular folks. These superstars will do whatever it takes to win, and it turns out, this often includes some pretty strange stuff.

From pros with unconventional diet choices to baseball players who take their love of the game a bit too far, let’s explore the most peculiar athletes in the world, and all the weirdest things they like to do.

Jason Giambi and the Gold Thong

Jason Giambi is an ex all-star baseball player who attributed much of his success to one, strange piece of clothing. If Giambi was in a batting slump, and the team were down, he’d head to the changing rooms and put on a golden thong that he claimed would improve his batting game.

giambi golden thong
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Of course, he wore clothes over the top on the field, but his team knew what was lurking underneath. In fact, Giambi was generous with the banana hammock, letting his teammates use it on several occasions. Baseball legend Derek Jeter admitted to wearing the thong once, claiming that it was his last resort in a game where he was batting 0 for 32.

Once Jeter put the thong on, he immediately hit a home run, cementing the wonder-pants’ reputation as a miracle cure for a bad game. When Giambi left the Yankees in 2008, he gave the team a spare golden thong as a parting gift, and they reportedly continued to use the mystical golden garment long after he left.

While we can’t know for sure whether the golden thong really works, luckily, the MLB’s strict rules on performance enhancing drugs and equipment don’t extend to magical underpants. Therefore, the Yankees can continue to try the lucky lingerie on for size whenever they need a boost.

Weirdest Things Athletes Do

Novak Djokovic Eating Grass

For visitors who attend the world-famous Wimbledon tennis tournament, the fun of the tennis is always enhanced by the strawberries and cream traditionally sold on the premises. But Novak Djokovic knows that you can’t have your dessert until you’ve finished your greens.

Djokovic has won Wimbledon 6 times over the years, and after every victory he’s dropped to the floor, and eaten a piece of grass off of the court.

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Novak doesn’t taste the turf for its flavor. As a kid, he always dreamt of winning Wimbledon, and he always thought it’d be funny to do something crazy like eating a blade of grass to celebrate his victory.

Today, he feels obligated to have a graze every time he wins the tournament, both to honor his 10-year-old self’s sense of humor, and to remind himself of how far he’s come. This ritual is pretty unique, but Djokovic isn’t the only grass-muncher athlete.

Ex-college football coach Les Miles used to help himself to a blade of grass before every game, claiming that the process ‘humbles him as a man’ and connects him to the field. His grass-tasting became so well-known in the industry, he even appeared drinking a grass smoothie in a promo video for the 2014 College Football playoffs!

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While coaching at Louisiana State University, Miles used to graze on the LSU Lion’s field all the time, stating in interviews that the grass from LSU tasted far superior to the grass he sampled on away games. Compliments to the chef (or groundskeeper).

Yasiel Puig Licking Bats

Licking a bat might sound like a recipe for a global pandemic, but ex-L.A. Dodger Yasiel Puig has been French kissing his baseball bat for years. The Cuban-born right fielder likes to lick his lumber between pitches, stating that the wood tastes different depending on how he’s playing.

Puig licking bat
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If he’s having a good day, it tastes like ice cream, but if he’s been playing poorly, it tastes like a wooden baseball bat. Puig has said that he carries out the romantic ritual to reward his bat for a job well done, saying that he wants to ‘make love’ to his equipment after they perform well in a game.

Puig is mad as a batter, but at least he recognizes the absurdity of his ritual, telling a group of kids in 2019 that licking your bat is ‘nasty,’ and they shouldn’t follow in his footsteps. You can’t stand in the way of true love though, and Puig and his bat are still going steady to this day.

Bruce Gardiner's Toilet Ritual

Yasiel Puig might treat his bat like a lover, but other athletes aren’t so kind to their equipment. Bruce Gardiner was an Ice Hockey player who liked to play high-school bully, giving his hockey stick a swirly in the toilet before every game.

gardner hockey stick in toilet
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During Gardiner’s rookie season for the Ottawa Senators, veteran player Tom Chorske told him he’d only succeed if he took his frustrations out on his hockey stick, showing it who was the boss.

Giving a wooden stick a noogie sounds painful, and a wedgie was out of the question, so Chorske suggested that Gardiner should start dunking his stick into a toilet before taking to the ice. Bruce initially refused, but after a scoring slump, he relented, reluctantly giving the stick a good old-fashioned swirly.

Weirdest Things Athletes Do

Gardiner immediately started seeing more success on the ice, and he soon incorporated the ritual into his daily routine. Bullying is, usually, never okay – but in this case – a touch of tough-love did just the trick.

Wade Boggs, The Chickenman

Wade Boggs is a hall of fame baseball player who was 50% mustache and 50% chicken. Back when Wade played in the minor leagues, supporting a young family on a relatively low wage, the Boggs family lived almost exclusively off of a diet of cheap poultry.

When Wade started to gain more and more success and eventually make the major leagues, he decided to keep up the bird-based diet.

wade boggs chicken diet
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At his peak, Boggs claimed that he ate a chicken and a half every single day, quenching this ‘chicketarian’ diet with a drinking habit. On one cross country flight from Boston to LA, Wade famously claims to have drunk 107 beers, although, some of his teammates reckon that his drinking total only clucked in at around 64 cans.

wade boggs beer drinking
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Medical experts have pointed out that either number is more than enough to kill a man, so both claims are almost definitely exaggerated. But regardless, the hall of famer certainly knew how to knock em’ back, and knock em’ out of the park. When asked about his alcohol-fueled antics, the only explanation he’s ever offered is that ‘cross-country flights get boring.’

Athletes Drinking Their Own Urine

With diet plans and nutritionists on their backs, professional athletes (Wade Boggs excluded) have to be pretty careful about what they eat and drink. So, it’s pretty surprising to hear that a number of athletes decided to swap out water and energy drinks for a steaming glass of their own urine.

Members of team-tinkle include ex-UFC champion Lyoto Machida, who drinks a tumbler of the yellow stuff with his breakfast every single day.

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Another athlete who sips from the golden faucet is Juan Manuel Marquez, a Mexican boxer who famously drank his own pee before his championship fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. Mayweather still beat him though, so perhaps he trained harder or maybe he was fueled by a splash of his own supply.

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While there’s no word on whether Mayweather is actually a pee-sipper, Machida and Marquez believe that urine is a natural medicine full of vitamins, and drinking it prevents the buildup of dangerous bacteria by flushing out your system. Modern medicine, however, disagrees.

Urine actually contains bacteria and toxins that can cause diarrhea, fatigue, fever and muscle soreness in high doses, with no scientifically proven health benefits. Despite this, a number of athletes continue to indulge, and the practice has grown so popular that it’s now formally known as Urine therapy.

Drinking pee might be a no-go, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other uses for the waste-product. Sergio Goycochea was an Argentinian goalkeeper who had a knack for saving penalties. His lucky ritual? Peeing on the pitch before every penalty-kick.

Goycochea peed on the pitch
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After finding himself desperate for the restroom during a shootout against Yugoslavia at the 1990 World Cup quarter finals, Goycochea was forced to crouch down to the ground and “water the grass”.

When Argentina won the shootout, Goycochea felt as if he owed it to his emptied bladder, so he repeated the ritual throughout his career, turning every penalty, into a pee-nalty.

Serena Williams and the Dirty Socks

When it comes to tennis, Serena Williams certainly doesn’t stink or does she? With 4 Olympic gold medals, and a whopping 73 tournament titles, Williams is one of the best tennis players of all time, but it turns out, she owes her demon serve and killer forehand to one smelly ritual she’s relied on throughout her career.

If Williams is doing well in a tennis tournament, she’ll wear the same pair of socks for every match without washing them. Playing tennis can get pretty sweaty, and Williams usually makes it to the very end of tournaments, meaning she often wears these unwashed socks for 7 whole matches.

serena sweaty socks

According to the California Podiatric Medical Association, the average foot excretes half a pint of sweat every day, and a damp sock is the perfect breeding ground for potentially harmful bacteria.

The bacteria starts to grow in a sock after one day of usage, and it can cause severe skin irritation or even an infection. For bacteria, the sweaty sock of an athlete like Serena is paradise, and at the end of a 7-game tournament, her feet must start to get pretty itchy.

Minnie Miñoso's Superstition

From stinky feet to White Sox now, Minnie Miñoso was a ball player for the Chicago White Sox back in the 50s, whose performance reportedly depended on the cleanliness of his uniform.

Minnie was a pro baseball player, but he also loved to play the blame game, and after a terrible game with 0 hits, he blamed the bad mojo on his uniform. Miñoso felt like the stink of his bad performance was hanging around on his clothes, so he decided to keep them on for his post-game shower, attempting to wash the bad vibes off of them.

minoso showering
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This soggy superstition might seem ridiculous, but the next day, Minoso’s performance improved significantly, convincing his teammates on the value of the shower ritual. The next match, the entire White Sox roster took their post-game showers in full uniform.

Someone should’ve given Serena Williams the same memo. Her socks could definitely use a soak.

Emu Oil Aids Paula Radcliffe

In 2003, Marathon Runner Paula Radcliffe ran the London Marathon in 2 hours, 15 minutes and 25 seconds, breaking the previous world record. Strangely, this superhuman performance was made possible partially with a helping hand from the animal kingdom. The secret behind Paula’s record-breaking run? A healthy dose of emu oil.

A month before the marathon, Radcliffe collided with a cyclist while training, injuring her shoulders, knees and jaw. With little time to heal before the event, her team recommended an Australian Aborigine treatment that involves rubbing oil extracted from an Emu’s body fat into your wounds.

Weirdest Things Athletes Do

Aborigines have been using the treatment for thousands of years, and the oil is full of fatty acids like Omega 3, which actually do reduce inflammation and ease muscular pains. Emu oil usually does the trick, but unfortunately, Radcliffe also suffers from an iron deficiency, making her recovery from the injuries particularly difficult.

To solve this, Paula started eating high-iron Ostrich meat, and the combination of the Ostrich steaks and Emu fat worked like a charm, the leggy birds miraculously healing Paula in time for the event.

But while flightless birds have surprising benefits, is there hidden power to be gained from creatures that can fly? Well, while seeing an Asian Giant Hornet flying around your apartment might be horrifying for most folks, the nutritionists for Japan’s Olympic Marathon team might just fire up their blenders.

Weirdest Things Athletes Do

Back in the 80s, scientists at the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research in Tokyo discovered that these giant murder hornets could fly 62 miles a day without taking a break. This was found to be thanks to their larva producing a juice consisting of specialized amino acids that, when consumed by adult hornets, work together to generate energy in an ultra-efficient manner.

After experimenting with the substance, the scientists found that it also reduced muscle fatigue and boosted stamina in humans, while also reducing the buildup of lactic acid.

hornets reducing lactic acid

The natural substance wasn’t banned by the World Anti-doping agency, and when the Olympic team’s nutritionists gave the ingredient to marathon runner Naoko Takahashi, she went on to take gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. For her opponents, that hornet juice must’ve really caused a sting!

Amare Stoudemire's Wine Bath

Taking a relaxing bath after gameday might seem pretty ordinary for a professional athlete. But ex-New York Knick’s player Amare Stoudemire used to swap out his bathwater for something a little more luxurious, taking his baths in a tub completely filled with red wine.

This might seem like a cry for help, but the unusual habit is actually a form of vinotherapy; treatments using different combinations of wine, grape seeds, and vines. These ingredients contain an antioxidant called polyphenol, and allegedly, the treatment improves your blood circulation, keeping your skin smooth and youthful, or speeding up the healing process after a day of heavy exercise.

wine bath
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Unfortunately, there isn’t much evidence to support these claims and although consuming antioxidants like polyphenol can have a positive effect on your skin, medical experts believe that attempted to absorb polyphenol by bathing in it is unlikely to have any effect.

Regardless, you can’t have a wine and cheese night without a lot of cheddar, and a bath at Amare’s favorite vinotherapy spa costs $530 for a 30-minute dip. Amare claims that he never drinks any of the bath water. But at that price, I’m sure he’s taken a couple of sips after a particularly tough game.

Dennis Rodman and North Korea

Professional athletes are known for brushing shoulders with other rich and powerful figures. But NBA legend Dennis Rodman, in line with his tradition of somewhat unusual behaviors, takes this a step further, holding an unlikely friendship with North Korea’s infamous dictator Kim Jong-Un.

Kim is best known for nuclear threats and his distinctive haircut, but when he isn’t threatening to launch nukes, he’s launching three-pointers. It turns out, Kim grew up idolizing Dennis Rodman and the Chicago Bulls.

They say that you should never meet your heroes, but in 2013, lil Kim plucked up the courage to invite Rodman to North Korea, and when his idol accepted, the pair reportedly sang karaoke, went skiing and partied together, establishing a friendship that’s only grown over the years.

rodman and kim
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When the dictator’s birthday rolled around in 2014, Dennis flew a team of ex-NBA all-stars out to North Korea, organizing a basketball exhibition between the Americans and North Korea’s national team.

There might’ve been serious consequences for the North Korean team if they lost the game on their own turf, but luckily, Rodman trained them before the exhibition.

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And he clearly did an incredible job, because according to the news in North Korea, they easily beat the all-star squad of Americans. Unfortunately, all reputable evidence proving their victory has been lost. That means we’ll never know for sure whether that victory was fair-won or won via threats of never letting the NBA stars make it home!

Turk Wendell's Many Superstitions

Whether it’s a rabbit’s foot or a four-leaf clover, everybody needs a good luck charm but why stop at one? Turk Wendell was a baseball player who followed this mantra, deciding to maximize his luck by stuffing as many superstitions and rituals into his game as possible.

Turk’s rituals included chewing giant mouthfuls of black licorice while pitching, leaping over any lines on the field, brushing his teeth in between innings and wearing a necklace made of the teeth and bones of animals he’d hunted.

Turk rituals
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While the necklace and licorice chewing were just sources of comfort on the diamond, his other quirks had some more unique motivations. For example, during one game in high school, Turk stepped on a marking line while taking the field, and the action was followed by the worst inning of his schoolboy career.

As a result, he avoided stepping on lines like the plague from then on. Similarly, during one pro game he was playing poorly in, Turk noticed a bad taste in his mouth. So, he brushed his teeth in the dugout, and wound up playing brilliantly afterwards.

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Turk didn’t believe in coincidences, so he repeated these actions throughout the rest of his career, unable to play without carrying out his good luck charms. This seems a little obsessive, but of all the rituals in this article so far, Turk’s are probably the healthiest. His dentist must be proud.

The G.O.A.T. (literally)

With 8 Olympic gold medals, 3 reigning world records, and the coolest surname in the world, Usain Bolt is often described as the GOAT: an acronym for the greatest of all time. But it turns out, that “GOAT” description might be a little more literal than expected.

Usain Bolt Rio 100m final 2016j
Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil, CC BY 3.0 BR, via Wikimedia Commons

Days before the 2016 Olympic final in Rio de Janeiro, Bolt suffered an injury that threatened to put him out of action for the entire competition. Desperate times called for desperate measures, and the sprinter called upon Hans-Wilhelm Muller-Wohlfahrt, a famous doctor known for his unconventional treatments.

Wohlfahrt’s treatments are mostly based around injections of homeopathic substances, including medicines made from goats' blood, honey, and oils taken from the chests of cockerels. Many of Wohlfahrt’s treatments involve an amino acid called Actovegin, a substance derived from calves’ blood.

Wohlfahrt claims that Actovegin can improve a muscle’s intake of fuel, speeding up an athlete’s recovery time after an injury, and improving their performance during a sporting event.


Some people believe that Actovegin should be categorized as a performance-enhancing drug, and hence banned. However, the World Anti-Doping agency say there’s no scientific evidence to support any of Wohlfahrt’s claims, and if a dose of Actovegin does yield any positive effects, it’s likely just a case of the placebo effect.

Although nobody knows the exact concoction Wohlfahrt injected into Bolt, it clearly did the trick. The runner’s injury was healed within a couple of days, and he went on to take gold at Rio, cementing his title as the GOAT. And if it was goat’s blood injections he received, then he earned that title both literally and figuratively.

Brede Hangeland's Cheese Treatment

When soccer player Brede Hangeland injured his thigh back in 2014, Fulham Football Club’s manager Felix Magath decided to skip physiotherapy and conventional medicine for his injured player.

Instead, Magath recommended a very bizarre treatment indeed. He allegedly told Hangeland that, before he fell asleep that night, he should place an alcohol-soaked block of cheese on his thigh, before calling his mom and telling her that he loved her.

magath unconventional treatment
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Magath allegedly claimed that the combination of cheese, booze and motherly love would heal him, and by the morning, Hangeland would feel good as new. Unfortunately, like cheese, there were holes in Magath’s plan, and Hangeland’s injury actually worsened after trying the treatment, forcing the player to sit out the rest of the season.

Before we’re too harsh on Magath, the manager claims that Hangeland’s story is wildly exaggerated, and he wasn’t trying to heal the player’s stilted play with stilton. Apparently, he recommended a tried-and-tested treatment using a specific soft German cheese called Quark, and he never told the player to call his mom.

quark cheese recovery

Quark’s healing capacities haven’t been extensively researched, but American Skier Lindsey Vonn famously used it to heal a leg injury before taking gold at the 2010 Winter Olympics.

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Food scientists say that there’s no scientific basis for using Quark as a treatment, and all evidence of successful cheese-based healing is purely anecdotal. However, if it’s good enough for an Olympian, it’s good enough for us, and next time I stub my toe I’m skipping the pharmacist and heading straight for the dairy aisle.

Rube Waddell, The Strangest Man In Baseball

Baseball hall-of-famer Rube Waddell was one of the best pitchers of the early 1900s. But today, he’s best known for his antics outside of the diamond.

On two occasions, Rube disappeared for several days during the baseball season – only to be discovered ‘leading a parade down the main street of Jacksonville,’ and later, ‘wrestling an alligator’ in a nearby lagoon.

rube antics
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In 1903 alone; Rube allegedly lived in a firehouse, toured the nation in a stage play, saved a woman from drowning, and was bitten by a lion after climbing onstage during a circus show. When Rube found time to play some baseball, the pitcher was still far from ordinary.

Opposing teams reportedly used to hold puppies on the sidelines, causing Rube to leave the diamond so he could play with them. Similarly, every time a firetruck drove past the stadium, he’d reportedly run off of the field and chase it down the road.

Weirdest Things Athletes Do

While these peculiarities, which have likely been exaggerated over time, sound like the actions of a Labrador, not a star athlete, Rube also led the league in strikeouts every season between 1902 and 1907. During this five-year stretch, Rube was responsible for 1,576 strikeouts, while the six runners-up only had 1,180 combined.

Unfortunately, the peculiar prodigy died young. In 1912, Hickman, Kentucky’s levee broke, causing a devastating flood that threatened to destroy the city. Luckily, Rube was there to save the day, and the pitcher waded through the water, rescuing stranded locals and stacking sandbags to try and block the breach.

Hours later, Rube had helped locals to successfully block the breach, stopping the flood and saving the city. But tragically, he’d sacrificed himself in the process.

rube helping blocking bridge
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Standing in the freezing waters for hours on end caused Rube to develop pneumonia and tuberculosis, and after 2 years of deterioration, the pitcher passed away on April 1st, 1914. Rube was born on Friday the 13th, and he died on April Fool’s day, and that about sums up the pitcher’s absolutely bizarre life.

Cupping Therapy

Cupping is an ancient Chinese medicine that involves placing glass suction cups on your body and pumping the air out of them, sucking your skin into an airtight vacuum.

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Today, cupping is used by athletes like Anthony Joshua and Michael Phelps, the treatment supposedly relieving tension in sore muscles, and improving blood flow to damaged parts of your body, speeding up the healing process after intense exercise.

Unfortunately, most medical professionals say that there isn’t any scientific evidence that suggests that cupping improves athletic performance, and the treatment is still categorized as a pseudo-science.

cupping benefits

The treatment is meant to be relatively painless and incredibly relaxing, but considering it leaves you with a cheetah-like appearance, I suggest easing your injuries with an ice pack and a whole lot of Ben and Jerry’s instead.

If you were amazed at the weirdest things athletes do, you might want to read this article about athletes who went completely broke with dumb decisions. Thanks for reading!

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