Category: Lucky Sports

Lucky 8 for Michael Phelps

8 has turned out to be the luckiest number of all for Michael Phelps. The Beijing Olympic Games began fortuitously on 08.08.08, and last Saturday  (the eighth day of competition, by the way), the swimming champion accomplished what no other athlete has done before in Olympic history—win 8 gold medals during a single Olympics.

To commemorate this historic event, Sports Illustrated is putting Phelps on its cover in what will surely become an iconic image of the athlete. Phelps poses bare-chested and wearing all eight medals in homage to the 1972 photograph of the previous Olympic medal record holder Mark Spitz with his seven medals draped around his neck. The cover could also turn out to be the magazine’s luckiest yet, since’s chockfull of so many lucky symbols—8 gold coins, against an auspicious vibrant Chinese red background and framed in blue–yet another lucky color.

The issue hits newsstands tomorrow. Let’s see how well it sells!



If you were paying close attention to Kevin’s blog entry of June 23rd (and I know you were), you would have noticed among Barack Obama’s lucky charms a “tiny monkey,” which, it turns out, is a miniature representation of the Hindu god Hanuman. It ended up in Obama’s pocket the same way many other items have landed there: “I have all these things that people give me—all these different little good luck charms.” The other day the Washington Post blog reported that Bhavna Pandit, a political fundraising consultant, believes that the quickly spreading news that Obama is toting around this little Hindu monkey will go a long way with the Indian American community. The blog entry says that “women and men of [Pandit’s] parents’ generation” are “suddenly taking note of Obama in a way they had not done before.” The article suggests that if Pandit is right, Hanuman may help Obama carry the Indian American vote, which had previously been largely aligned with the Clinton campaign. See the story HERE and HERE.

What’s interesting about this is not just that I’m a big Obama supporter, but the shared understanding on the part of both Obama, the consultant interviewed, and, presumably, the person who gave Obama the monkey in the first place, that Hanuman inhabits a space that is at the intersection of faith and superstition, religion and luck. And I had an experience recently about just this topic that ended on a somewhat less positive note.

I was at CW 11 (a local network) to be interviewed for a short piece they were doing about lucky charms for Friday the 13th. They had asked me to bring some charms to discuss so I had a bag full of things I have collected or been given since I started working on the luck book. They include pennies, a four-leaf clover, a wishbone, a daruma, a maneki neko, a pair of red underwear, an evil eye amulet, and a Ganesha. One of the production guys had taken away the charms to create the table display for the spot and I was sitting in the “green room” waiting to go on. A woman came into the room to inform me, angrily, that she had taken the Ganesha off of the table. She began to explain that Ganesha was a god, not a good luck charm, and that people worship him. I began to say that I know that he is a Hindu god and she cut me off, stating that she was Hindu and that he is “the mover of obstacles.” I tried to say that, as I understood it, he is thought to bring good luck to difficult endeavors but again she interrupted, snapping that I wouldn’t have put a baby Jesus on a crucifix on the table along with red underwear, would I have? I considered this for a moment, thinking to myself “Well, actually I would have but the baby Jesus on a crucifix isn’t considered lucky,” but I (wisely, I think) kept my mouth shut and she stormed off.

The thing that is complicated about writing about luck, or talking about luck, is that it really comes down to belief, and that’s a pretty serious subject, whether it’s shared by an organized religion or an individual. We here at the Luck Guide try to be sensitive when we’re talking about these things, but we don’t always get it right.

I’m not sure if it was a mistake or not to include the Ganesha on that table along with the red underwear. I just know that when I had hit a really rough patch writing the book, I happened to walk by a store where there was a display of Ganeshas in the window. I went in, bought one, and when I got home I put him on the mantelpiece in the room where I was doing my writing. The next morning I woke up and started writing again. I’m not sure what the turnaround was about—religion, faith, luck, the power of positive thinking, or a good night’s sleep—but I suppose I reserve the right to believe he brought me luck, regardless of what anyone else says.


Lucky Road to the White House

Barack Obama displays his lucky charms

John McCain shows off his lucky penny

We here at the Luck Guide have known for quite some time that John McCain and Barack Obama are big believers in luck, but it’s good to see that the news is getting around. Back in May, we highlighted the good luck superstitions of Barack Obama and John McCain in a piece entitled “Hoop Dreams” (read it HERE). This week, citing a number of other media sources, New York Magazine ran a story on their 2008 Electopedia blog that delves even deeper into each of the candidate’s lucky practices. Here are some of the juicier details we’ve learned:

—Obama carries “a bracelet belonging to a soldier deployed in Iraq, a gambler’s lucky chit, a tiny monkey god and a tiny Madonna and child.”

—Obama tucked into a big plate of black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day 2008 when communications director Robert Gibbs explained that it would bring good luck.

—There was widespread panic in McCain’s camp when his lucky feather and lucky compass disappeared (at different times). Things calmed down only when they were recovered.

—One of McCain’s primary-day rituals includes making sure that “lucky friend” Steve Dart is always close by.

It’s hard to assess at this point which of the presidential candidates has a better handle on their mojo bag. I suppose we’ll all find out on Election Day. To read the full New York Magazine article, click HERE.


(Photos by Brooks Croft for Time magazine. To see the full photos, click HERE.)

Did the Football Star Kill the Unlucky Cat?

Inter Milan footballer Luis Figo was accused last week of killing a black cat that lived at the football club’s training ground, believing that it would turn the team’s luck around following a string of losses.

Vittorio Feltri, editor of the Libero newspaper, sparked the controversy when he alleged in an article that Figo had deliberately run over the “beautiful black cat” with his sports utility vehicle. Figo vehemently denied the charges, stating on his club’s website that it was “completely untrue.” Feltri, however, stands by his story, stating that he will bring out witnesses if the controversy goes to court.

Whatever the truth may be, Italian football fans are up in arms over the controversy, and the popular Portuguese star was booed by the crowd as he arrived for training last week, with one fan even holding up a banner that read “Figo, you’ve killed a black cat, the whole world is disgusted with you.”

Since the Middle Ages, black cats have been associated with witchcraft and bad luck. It was believed that if a black cat crossed your path it was a sign that a witch was around, or an indication that the devil was taking notice of you. Either way, they were creatures to be avoided.

Which brings us back to the Inter Milan cat: Since its demise, the club has continued its run of poor results, and Figo was injured in the match that followed the supposed SUV vs black cat incident. It is rumored that the team has since paid a visit to the Pope, a cat lover, in an attempt to rid themselves of the black cat’s curse.

For the full story, click HERE.


(Cat depicted in the above image was not harmed in any way. Photo ©2007 by Dino Quinzani)

Hoop Dreams

Anyone who hasn’t been in a coma for the last few months knows that today are the primaries in Indiana and North Carolina—the two biggest states left to vote in the primary season. It appears, from recent polling, that Obama has survived the Jeremiah Wright debacle and it is thought by many that he will carry North Carolina (although by a slimming margin). Although early voting in Indiana tilted toward Obama, polls suggest Clinton will take the state.

Many believe that if Obama could actually win Indiana, it would be the death knell for the Clinton campaign and this death march to the Democratic Convention would be over. And it appears Obama is doing all he can to make that happen, canvassing the state, holding rallies, and even holding meet-the-family picnics with wife, Michelle, and kids in tow.

So what’s Obama going to be doing today? We hope playing basketball. Apparently Obama’s one superstition is that he believes he has to play one game of basketball on a voting day in order to close the deal. Before Iowa? Hoops. Won. New Hampshire? No hoops. Lost. And he’s played every important Tuesday since.

On a related subject, during his walk-in-the-park to the nomination, we learned that John McCain is incredibly superstitious. According to The Washington Post, McCain must see a movie before the votes are counted in a primary, and while campaigning he wears particular shoes, carries a compass, a feather, a flattened penny, and sometimes, even a rock—all for good luck.

If I were running as a Republican after eight years of Bush, I’d be loading up the good luck charms, too.