Video: Fans sacrifice rubber chicken, burn sage outside Nationals Park in advance of Game 3

As the Washington Nationals arrive in San Francisco with their backs to the wall in the National League Division Series playoffs, fans back home have taken matters into their own hands.

Nationals Fan Rubber Chicken SacrificeJenn Rubenstein burning sageNationals Fan Rubber Chicken SacrificeNationals Fan Rubber Chicken SacrificeLongtime Nats fan and self-titled “Rubber Chicken Man” Hugh Kaufman led a group of 14 fans in an impromptu gathering outside Nationals Park on Sunday Afternoon, where they performed a ritual sacrifice of a rubber chicken, and burned sage outside the centerfield gate.

Kaufman said the coaching staff was aware of the event and appreciated the fan support. “We’re going to take the bad juju and give it to the chicken,” he said, “so that when the Nats play in San Francisco…they’re going to win.”

After the chicken was beheaded, Kaufman carried the decapitated rubber toy around the centerfield gate as fellow fan Jenn Rubenstein burned sage in an act known as smudging, which is reputed to bless a house and dispel it of negative energy and influences.

Longtime readers know that when the Nationals had their backs to the wall in the 2012 playoffs, Kaufman and Rubenstein performed the ritual before Jayson Werth’s historic walk-off home run in Game 4 of that year’s NLDS.

Kaufman has conducted many sacrifices since 2005, but the only other sacrifice this season came after a Memorial Day loss that dropped the team’s record below .500. After that, the Nationals got hot, finishing the season 71-40.


After Memorial Day loss, fans plan chicken sacrifice Tuesday at Nationals Park

Led by self-styled “Rubber Chicken Man” Hugh Kaufman, Nationals fans will sacrifice a rubber chicken at noon Tuesday outside the Nationals Park centerfield gate.

Nationals rubber chicken man sacrifice breaks bad luckNationals Racing Presidents photo finish - George Washington edges Teddy RooseveltDespite outscoring opponents over the last eight games, the Nationals have won only two of those contests, and find themselves with a losing record after Monday’s 3-2 loss to the Miami Marlins.

As we’ve reported previously, Kaufman has performed the ritual “dozens of times” in the team’s ten year history. The act, which is designed to “remove bad juju” from the ball park, has become less frequent as the team has done well in recent years, but pitcher Gio Gonzalez has adopted the cause, having participated in the most recent sacrifice himself last August. Some fans have begun sporting Chicken Mode t-shirts when Gonzalez pitches.

“Our injury plagued squad has fallen below .500,” said Kaufman. “They need the extra Chicken Mode juju to help heal them, and energize our sedated bats.”

In unrelated news, George Washington edged Teddy Roosevelt wearing military fatigues for the Memorial Day presidents race win.

Kaufman encourages fans to attend on Tuesday. “Although it’s a work day,” he said, “I hope all Nats fans who can make it to this short ritual at lunch time, will come to help add good juju to our team.”

Race video below:

Video for LetTeddyWin.com by YouTube member lfahome

Video: Chicken sacrifice precedes Nats Game 4 victory

After suffering blowout losses in games 2 and 3 of the National League Division Series playoffs, Nats fan and “Rubber Chicken Man” Hugh Kaufman announced his plans to sacrifice a chicken at Nationals Park before Thursday’s Game 4.

Chicken Sacrifice at Nationals Park - Chicken ModeChicken Sacrifice at Nationals Park dugout - Chicken ModeApparently, it worked.

The videos below show Kaufman leading a crowd including two stilt walkers (!) in the sacrifice before the game, and completing the ritual above the Nationals home dugout.

“What you want to do (first) is see: Is there evil eye on the dugout?” Kaufman explains.  “In Italian it’s called the malocchio.”

Kaufman then brings out the beheaded rubber chicken to complete the ritual. “In the latin culture, there’s a religion called santeria, similar to the Jewish culture of Kaporos,” Kaufman says. “You put the animal over the area that needs help.  You take the sins, and you put it into an animal, and you sacrifice the animal.”

Kaufman, has sacrificed dozens of rubber chickens since 2005 on behalf of his beloved Nationals, attracting the attention of fans and of pitcher Gio Gonzalez, and inspiring Chicken Mode t-shirts.  With Gio on the mound Friday to start game 5, expect to see some Chicken Mode on display.

After two blowout losses in playoffs, fans plan chicken sacrifice Thursday at Nationals Park

Nationals Playoffs Baby - Photo by Kim WrightWashington Nationals Rubber Chicken Man Hugh Kaufman at Nationals ParkWashington Nationals Rubber Chicken Man Hugh Kaufman displays his Chicken Mode T-ShirtLongtime readers and serious Nats fans are familiar with Hugh Kaufman, aka Rubber Chicken Man.  Kaufman is best known for the signs he displays from his seats behind the Nationals Park home dugout, but more significantly, he has been sacrificing rubber chickens to break various Washington Nationals’ strings of bad luck since 2005.

The ritual has inspired Kaufman’s followers to create Chicken Mode t-shirts, and even pitcher Gio Gonzalez jumped on the bandwagon, wearing one on FOX 5 News, and asking Hugh to make him and the other players some chicken soup (Kaufman obliged).

2012 has been largely devoid of panic, the lone exception being in May, when a string of injuries led manager Davey Johnson to actually call for a chicken sacrifice. Dutifully, Kaufman delivered.

Which brings us to the National League Division Series playoffs.

With the Nationals suffering consecutive crushing defeats at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals, and facing the first playoff elimination game in team history, Kaufman has announced a rubber chicken sacrifice to take place Thursday at 1:30pm outside the Nationals Park center field gate.

The unsanctioned event is open to the public.

Gio Gonzalez: “Chicken Mode is my area of expertise”

Washington Nationals Rubber Chicken Man Hugh Kaufman displays his Chicken Mode T-ShirtGio Gonzalez of the Washington Nationals Smile SmilingLong before pitcher Gio Gonzalez made his first start for the Washington Nationals, he spotted two fans outside the Nationals spring training complex in Viera, Florida, wearing Chicken Mode t-shirts.

Lacking any context, the phrase nonetheless spoke to the Nat’s happy-go-lucky new pitcher.

“Chicken Mode?,” Gio called out. “Yeah, we’ve got too much Beast Mode around here. We need more Chicken Mode!”

It didn’t take long for Gio to figure out that the shirts were a tribute to Nationals season ticket holder Hugh Kaufman, aka Rubber Chicken Man, who sits behind the home dugout and has has performed a number of rubber chicken sacrifices to help the team, most recently two months ago during a string of injuries.

Gonzalez asked Kaufman for a t-shirt, which Gio wore Wednesday morning for an interview with FOX 5 DC. “I always give [Hugh] a little shout out,” he told FOX 5’s Dave Ross.

“You got to be a little bit stronger to wear Beast Mode,” Gonzalez explained. “Chicken Mode is more like my area of expertise.”

Enjoy:

Photo: Bill Menzel

Video: Today’s Chicken Sacrifice at Nationals Park

Washington Nationals Chicken Man Hugh Kaufman sacrificing a chickenEarlier today, we shared the full story of the chicken sacrifice at Nationals Park, performed by “Rubber Chicken Man” Hugh Kaufman in response to the team’s recent string of injuries.

Here now is the video chronicle, including notes on how to make a rubber chicken kosher, bonus theories about Ozzie Guillen’s voodoo dolls, and The Washington Post’s Dan Steinberg cracking up as the ritual is finally completed:

Davey Johnson calls for the sacrifice. Chicken Man delivers.

After Monday night’s game vs. the San Diego Padres, Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson was asked whether the already injury-riddled team was snakebitten after losing two catchers in just three days.

“There’s been superstitions, to change our luck and do different kinds of things,” he said. “Sacrifice a chicken or something. I mean, you know, I’ve heard it all.”

What Johnson didn’t know was that Hugh Kaufman was listening.

If you’ve watched the Nationals on TV, chances are you’ve seen Kaufman. The self-styled “Rubber Chicken Man” sits directly behind the Nationals dugout for almost every game, waving a red Curly W flag in one hand and a bright yellow rubber chicken in the other.

And at some point during the season, the chicken loses its head.

Washington Nationals Rubber Chicken Man Hugh KaufmanWashington Nationals Rubber Chicken Man Hugh Kaufman at Nationals Park“The beginnings of the ritual Rubber Chicken Sacrifice started 7 years ago,” says Kaufman. After a hot start to their inaugural season in 2005, the Nationals found themselves losers of 11 of 15 games in July.

Kaufman felt that the good energy had been sapped from the ball park — that the fans and the team had become “flat,” “lame,” “out of sync.” So he got a rubber chicken and ritually sacrificed it at RFK Stadium.

With the bad Juju expunged, the mood seemed to improve, so Kaufman has repeated the ritual at least once a year ever since, starting each season with a new chicken, and decapitating it when it seems the Juju gods have turned on the team.

So when Davey Johnson called for the sacrifice, Hugh knew what he had to do. “I’ve probably sacrificed a dozen chickens in the last seven years,” Kaufman says.

At high noon on Wednesday, Kaufman and some of his Facebook followers met at the gates to Nationals Park, and the deed was done.

Washington Nationals Rubber Chicken Man Hugh Kaufman displays his Chicken Mode T-ShirtRubber Chicken Man Hugh Kaufman and Let Teddy Win Sacrifice a chicken at Nationals ParkIn response to Davey Johnson, Rubber Chicken Man Hugh Kaufman Sacrifices a chicken at Washington Nationals Park“I think Davey has recognized the whole history of baseball Voodoo into the whole history of the sport, and so again has shown tremendous leadership for this squad.”

Kaufman did his homework, following the orthodox Jewish tradition of Kaporos, in which chickens were ritually sacrificed before the Yom Kippur holiday. “This is an offshoot of that,” Kaufman explained before pulling out his butcher knife. “That’s where you transfer the sins to the animal, and so if there are any hidden sins in that Nats locker room, Cool Heat or something like that, that gets transferred to the chicken so when you take the head off, that gets rid of the bad Juju.”

After spinning the chicken counterclockwise above his head, Kaufman asked me to hold the bird, and brandishing a Davey Johnson autographed baseball, finished the job.

Kaufman, an engineer and longtime administrator for the EPA, has built a following since those early days at RFK Stadium. Last season, he started passing out rubber chicken pins from his perch above the Nats dugout as a means of welcoming members to the “Secret Society of the Rubber Chicken,” a group that now claims several Nationals players among its ranks (full disclosure: I am a long-time member as well).

Chicken Mode T-Shirts at Nationals ParkAt spring training this year, some members sported new Chicken Mode t-shirts as a fan counter-point to the “Beast Mode” shirt that’s most closely associated with outfielder Michael Morse.

“Michael Morse loves his “Chicken Mode” shirt,” says Kaufman, “even though he can’t stop laughing every time he looks at it.” Pitcher Gio Gonzalez is also a fan.

As for the chicken? It’s not going anywhere. “The Juju gods have been appeased,” says Kaufman. “No more injuries.” And for the rest of the season you’ll still find Hugh Kaufman right above the Nationals dugout, waving a red flag and a now-headless rubber chicken.

Update: DC Sports Bog’s Dan Steinberg was there and filed this report for the Washington Post

Video to follow. Update: Here it is.

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