- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 30, 2006

Pat Ryan knows the magic couch in his off-campus house has helped the George Mason University Patriots with their fairy tale trip to the Final Four.

“You can’t get up the whole game,” said Mr. Ryan, a GMU junior. “When the [last game] went into overtime, everybody had to go to the bathroom. But that’s the rule.”

Students, faculty and fans in the newly renowned Mason Nation are swearing by superstitions that they say are at least partially responsible for the Patriots’ upsets of Michigan State, North Carolina, Wichita State and Connecticut in the NCAA basketball tournament.

The rituals range from wearing the same clothing each game to eating the same pre-game meal.

But some observances are a bit less hygienic than others.

“I wear the exact same thing to every game [since the tournament began], and it hasn’t been washed yet,” said freshman Lee Warner, prompting an observation from a female friend nearby.

“He smells,” said classmate Joanna Bailey. “I wear the same George Mason jersey and we’ve been to every single game, [but] I wash mine because I’m a girl.”

Ignoring a ritual or breaking a tradition like wearing the wrong clothes or taking the wrong seat on the couch — according to sports legend and any die-hard fan — could cost your team the game.

Josh Vaile, a sophomore communications major, said he’s been walking around campus draped in a green George Mason flag since the team played Wichita State last Friday.

“I [only] take it off to sleep,” said Mr. Vaile, who watched the team practice on campus with two friends Wednesday at the Patriot Center. “I feel like as long as I’m rooting for them and confident, they’ll pull it off.”

Kendal Berner, an 18-year-old freshman on the Masonettes dance team, said she and two teammates have a pre-game ritual that is more spiritual than superstitious.

“We say a little prayer for the team before each game,” said Miss Berner, who attended Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax.

Students are not the only ones who participate in the rituals.

Alissa Karton, the school’s director of the Johnson Center and University Life Programs, said even eating the cakes marked with school slogans at pep rallies and game-watching parties has become a tradition.

“We don’t cut the ‘We Believe’ part before the game,” said Mrs. Karton, who wears a temporary Patriot tattoo on her right cheek each day. “We don’t cut that until the game is over.”

Mrs. Karton said her husband, Gary, did not attend George Mason but has developed some lucky habits of his own.

“My husband hasn’t shaved in a week,” she said. “He originally said he wasn’t going to shower, then he started getting pretty ripe.”

Even Liz Larranaga, the wife of head coach Jim Larranaga, doesn’t dare test her lucky charm.

“I’ve worn the same clothes [to the games] since the tournament started — black, black and more black,” she said. “My daughter-in-law said, ‘Let’s go shopping and get a new outfit.’

“I said, ‘Are you serious? No way.’ ”

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