[SPORTS VIEW]Old socks, fingernails and good luckThere are many things in Korea that are forbidden for superstitious reasons. For instance, writing one's own name in red or sticking a spoon or chopsticks into a rice bowl are considered bad luck because they all supposedly bear meanings of death.
Nevertheless, I was never the kind of person who cared about that sort of thing very much. I would sign my credit card slips in red and put not one but two chopsticks into my rice bowl just to annoy my mother. But then came judgment day (when I was 10 years old): the night before my family was supposed to take off for Germany from the Philippines, my dad cut his fingernails -- another forbidden act. My mother, seeing this action, shot him an unforgiving look, but he just ignored her and finished the job.
The next day, our plane was taking off from the airport. At first, there was nothing out of the ordinary besides the standard shaking and rumbling. It seemed like our plane was doing all right when suddenly it shook like an earthquake had hit it. All of a sudden the captain's voice was on the speakerphone: "This is the captain! We are on the wrong runway and are heading for the fence!" Fence? What fence?
It was chaos, but despite all this my father -- whose fingernail cutting was essentially the reason for this mishap -- tried to keep his cool. My mother, holding me by the hand, was running toward the exit. My father, meanwhile, who was following us, turned all of a sudden and ran back, passing everyone else who was scrambling in the opposite direction. After my mother and I had slipped down the emergency slide we realized my father wasn't there.
It was then that a silhouette appeared at the door of the airplane. It was my father, and what he said still rings in my head: "Honey, is this your bag?" All in all, besides a couple of bruises and cuts, no serious harm was done to anyone. From that day on, the Lee family would never, ever cut their fingernails at night.
Among the superstitious, athletes stand out and can take the notion to extremes. Members of the Samsung Lions and LG Twins, who are in the middle of trying to win the Korean Series, have taken every precaution to not do anything that might mar their luck.
An LG outfielder, Lee Il-ui, has made a habit of bringing a little doll to the bench along with a small picture of the doll in a frame. It's important that the doll and frame, which sit on the dugout steps, face each other.
Meanwhile, Lee's teammate, the catcher Jo In-seong, uses white polish, to match the color of his uniform, on his fingernails so the opposition can't read signs given to the LG pitchers. Lee insists on always using the same brand of nail polish.
Before each game, Samsung's batting coach, Park Hong-sik, and Kim Jung-soo, the manager, take turns when throwing batting practice. This habit started early in the seasonafter a bad loss in which only one of the men threw BP.
Though only a rumor, some insiders swear that Samsung's players are refusing to change their socks until the Korean Series ends.
To that, I have only one thing to say: Keep those socks on! Trust me, I know what I am talking about.
"Sports View" appears Thursdays and Sundays in the JoongAng Daily.
by Brian Lee