Psyching up

JULIE HORBAL -- Special to the Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:08 AM ET

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The controversial pregame soul-dance performed by the entire Remember the Titans squad.

Bull Durham's Nuke LaLoosh and his infamous ladies garters.

Quirky rituals, superstitions and habits are flaunted and ultimately make the characters in professional sports movies.

But just as hazing and rookie stunting is denied all around real-life professional sport, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers stand firm to the claim that staunch pre- and in-game rituals are a thing of urban myth.

Which either means there are in fact no strict routines in the Bombers locker room or, and more likely, the secrecy of superstition is just as important as the ritual itself.

Case in point?

It's common knowledge there were former Bombers who would throw up in one particular place or sit in the same spot and order the same food at a nearby restaurant prior to the game.

But when asked of habits last week, if any current player did in fact offer information on persistent practices, it was most often by way of deflecting explanation of his own and pointing out that of another.

There was no listening to a specific song, eating a particular food or dressing in a certain order -- that anyone would admit to.

Longtime Bombers punter/placekicker Troy Westwood was the first to discount an abundance of superstition on the squad, though he did dance around the idea with strange suspicion.

"I think ritualistic is different than superstitious. A lot of the guys on this team are ritualistic, but I wouldn't say superstitious," Westwood said coyly. "I haven't noticed too much of what things guys are doing. Guys tend to keep those under their hat pretty good. It tends to be pretty quiet."

Westwood denied having any set routine other than "just normally getting in the zone" and joining wide receiver Jamie Stoddard in his pregame Falafel tradition -- mainly for fear of what would happen if said routine was broken.

"My ritual is to have none, because I really try to avoid any superstition or anything like that. It's detrimental if something happens in the course of a game to send you off course," Westwood said, noting he was not always so levelheaded when it came to habits.

"When I was a kid, I got to the point where I had to wear seven pairs of socks under my soccer cleats or else I was a mess. You can imagine all the padding, it was insane," Westwood said. "During college I realized I could get deeply lost in all that and become half-crazy about it, so I had to wean myself off all that.

"I'm at a good place now. It saved me thousands of dollars in therapy and counseling."

According to Blue receivers coach Bob Dyce, Westwood is not so innocent when it comes to rituals, as the coach has walked in on him sitting in a pitch-black meeting room before hitting the field on more than one occasion.

But as far as weird and wacky routines are concerned, Dyce said the only thing he notices on a daily basis is one of the coaches (who he would not name) taking a shower like clockwork prior to every kickoff.

"We let everyone do what they want to do for the two hours before the game.

"Everybody is different. Milt Stegall does his thing. Chris Brazzell is mellow and does his thing," Dyce said, sticking close to the supposed shroud of secrecy.

"I haven't really noticed anyone do anything odd. But guys who do things don't want anyone noticing, so that doesn't mean anything."

Bombers linebacker Barrin Simspon noted defensive end Tom Canada as having a particularly noticeable practice -- though Simpson thinks Canada does it just as much for attention as anything else.

"Tom Canada likes to put on all his California Golden Bears outfit. He went to the University of California, so he will put on all his Golden Bears stuff, head to toe to work out," Simpson said. "I guess it reminds him of how he plays in college, but I guess it works. He does it every game. He always wears his California Golden Bears short pants, tights, t-shirt. Every day."

Simpson admitted his own pregame place is to be the "spirit" of the team every day. He psyches himself up, gets his teammates psyched up and then makes the most of the upped enthusiasm when he hits the field.

Simpson has no specific pattern he is willing to admit to as to how he reaches that place.

"I'm always excited. I'm loud and fired up," Simpson said, noting he thinks he does a pretty damn good job of getting his teammates going.

"It's just natural. I'm excited to play. I'm definitely keeping everyone going. They always say 'Get up here and get us hyped to play.'"


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