Published: Saturday, April 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 31, 2006 at 9:38 p.m.
Call them superstitions, good luck charms, rituals, obsessions. Gator fans will do just about anything to help their team win. And with the Gator men's basketball team making its first appearance in the NCAA Final Four since 2000, they aren't about to stop now.
But fans aren't the only ones. We found a few of the people closest to the team - and even one ON the team - who also aren't leaving anything to chance. Here they are, along with the flood of responses we received from fans across the Gator Nation ready to share their superstitions:
University of Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley has eaten at Ruth's Chris Steakhouses across the country since he and some staff members ate there prior to the Gators' SEC Tournament victory in Nashville, Tenn. They found a Ruth's Chris in Jacksonville, Minneapolis and - you're in luck, Gator fans - have already located one in Indianapolis.
"It's ridiculous, I know," Foley says.
Foley also chews one stick of Big Red gum at each of the eight scheduled timeouts during the games, and he insists on sitting on the aisle next to Greg McGarity, senior associate athletics director. The gum ritual has gone on for years, Foley says, and "we're not going to risk it now."
Though Christine Donovan says her husband, Gator coach Billy Donovan, doesn't have any superstitions that she knows of, she concedes her own part-ritual, part-tension relieving habit of rolling her ticket while watching the game.
"You can tell what kind of game it's been by the shape of my ticket," she says.
She and her husband also pray a lot, she says, for the team to play as well as it can and for no one to get injured.
Before each game, sophomore forward Corey Brewer always puts his shoes on the same way: Left shoe first, then right, then tie right, then tie left. He also reads the 23rd Psalm and prays just before he leaves the hotel.
"I've been doing it ever since high school," Brewer says.
The rituals haven't gone unnoticed by teammates and roommates Al Horford and Joakim Noah, neither of whom consider themselves superstitious.
"You know who you should talk to about that with? Corey Brewer," Noah says. "He does that a lot."
Brewer says the 23rd Psalm was the first Bible scripture he ever learned, when he was 9 years old.
"It's just a habit, you know, you get used to doing it."
In a combination of superstition and celebration, assistant coach Larry Shyatt brings his 2-year-old Chihuahua mix to the office the day after each win. Fortunately for the Gators and their fans, "Victory Bo," as the team calls him, has been a frequent visitor this season.
Bo loves to sample the office danishes on his visits, Shyatt says.
"Chris (Richard) thinks he's the ugliest dog there ever was," Shyatt says. He adds that he hopes that will change after many more visits by the pooch.
According to those who know and work with him, team trainer Dave "Duke" Werner has a few routines of his own.
He insists on taping each player's right ankle first before they head out on the court.
"Get started on the right foot, that's what he says," junior Lee Humphrey says.
A little help from the fans
Marilyn Summers of Alachua always watches Gator sporting events at home with a big group of family and friends. If the Gators are ahead at halftime, she says, everyone must take their same seats for the second half; if they're behind, every must switch.
"I can't remember when we didn't do it," Summers says.
The ritual extends even to Summers' son's dog, a 7-year-old poodle named Zoe. Decked out in a Gator visor and bandana, Zoe must sit with whoever was holding her during the first half if the Gators are ahead, Summers says.
Summers, who works as a purchasing agent for Shands and has been a Gator fan her entire life, says no one questions the seating arrangements.
"They know they have to do it," she says. "If it works or not, we're going to keep doing it."
Whenever a Gator is at the free-throw line, Laura Fuller, a Gator grad and vice president of commercial lending for Millennium Bank, looks the player in the eyes and says, "Make your mama proud, make your mama proud."
"You have to get in the zone with them," she says. "It works."
As the mother of two boys (and wife of Sun cartoonist Jake Fuller), Laura says she knows firsthand how sons want to make their mamas proud, so she aims to remind them of that when they're shooting.
"They're not doing it for me, they're doing it for their mamas," she says.
Barb Hintermister has been a Gator fan since she moved to Gainesville in 1973. To help the Gators win, she winks at the three clocks in her house when they read 11:11, makes sure the roll of toilet paper is torn off evenly - no ragged edges - and recently began collecting litter when she goes walking.
Once Hintermister's husband, Sam, sat in a different seat than usual at a basketball game, and the Gators lost.
"Oh my gosh, I was on him big time," says Hintermister, who is traveling to Indianapolis for the Final Four.
So does she feel like she's doing her part for the team?
"Oh yes, definitely," she says. "Whatever it takes to help these Gators."
Paul Amos, vice president of Gator Clubs in the Northeast region, has hard facts to back up his faith in the Gators.
When playing in his region, which extends from Boston to Washington, D.C., and Nashville to Minneapolis, the Gators have not lost this season; each time they've played a team from his region, they've won.
Since Indianapolis and George Mason are in his region, Amos says, it's looking good for the Final Four.
Amos, a researcher at University of Pennsylvania, has made an Excel spreadsheet to back up his theory.
"Of course it has everything to do with my region," he says. "It's pretty much in the bag."
Dianna Fuehrlein and her husband have attended every home basketball game for three years.
Earlier this season, she went to one of the games and realized afterward that she had been wearing blue panties.
"I just so happened to wear those panties once," says Fuehrlein, a social worker. "I thought, these are good luck."
She kept wearing them to games, and the Gators kept winning. Eventually she was doing laundry twice a week just to keep up. When the Gators lost at home to South Carolina, she decided to retire the lucky panties.
Fuehrlein's latest token is a gold Gator charm that she wears on a necklace. She used to just wear it for games, but ever since the SEC Tournament, she's been wearing it all the time.
Comments are currently unavailable on this article