Sage & Sacrifice: Nats Fans Look To Ancient Rituals & Rubber Chickens To Heal Team (With Video)

DC Sports Nexus ---- Friday, April 26, 2013

As the church bells rang in the noon hour, it was time for the ritual to begin.  A man reached into his giant goodie bag and yanked out an oversized knife and a bright yellow rubber chicken.  By his side, a younger woman pulled out an old lighter from her jacket and a bundle of sage.  Had anyone happened to walk by they might have thought something nefarious was going on.  However, the actions of the two individuals were far from perfidious.

So who are these two shady characters and what were they doing standing outside of Nationals Park on Thursday afternoon?

The man is Hugh Kaufman, an older gentleman who frequents DC sporting events, often seen with a stuffed chicken puppet on his hand.  Known to local fans as ‘Rubber Chicken Man’, Kaufman is famous locally for sacrificing rubber chickens to help the fortunes of the Washington Nationals dating all the way back to the Nats inaugural season in 2005.

The woman, Jenn Rubenstein, is a also big DC sports fan.  Early in 2013, when the Washington Capitals were in last place in the NHL standings, Rubenstein performed her own rubber animal sacrifice cutting off the heads of a rubber cow and goat.  Ten weeks later the Caps clinched the division title and are about to head to the playoffs as the #3 seed in the East.

Both Kaufman and Rubenstein were hoping that a sacrifice to the baseball gods would have similar results.


The Nationals are currently underperforming World Series expectations and before Thursday night’s game against the Reds the team was under .500 (10-11) for the first time in over a full season’s worth of baseball.

The fans aren’t the only ones who are getting a little bit perturbed and looking for answers.  Nationals veteran right fielder Jayson Werth suggested taking a page out of 11 time NBA champion coach Phil Jackson’s book and start looking to ancient rituals for a solution.

“Somebody was talking about Phil Jackson the other day. We need to call him up, have him come in here and burn some sage or something”

That is where Kaufman & Rubenstein come in.

Heeding the call of Jayson Werth, the two organized a meetup at Nationals Park to burn some sage and get the Washington Nationals back on the right track.

While Rubenstein provided the sage, Kaufman provided a wide array of seemingly indiscriminate objects.

Ball signed by Walter Johnson & The 1924 World Champion Washington Senators

A baseball autographed by the entire 1924 World Series champion Washington Senators team.  A baseball bat signed by the 2013 Nats.  A screen printed lifesize Jayson Werth mask.  And of course, his signature rubber chicken.

Kaufman held up the prehistoric baseball next to the baseball bat to try to will some of the championship juices out of the ball and into the bat; from out of the old Washington Senators into the new Washington Nationals.

After unveiling all of their superstitious objects, the two Nationals fans began the ritual.  Rubenstein fought off the wind to light the sage while Kaufman brandished the rubber chicken.  With the sage smoke billowing through the gates and into the stadium, Kaufman wielded the rubber chicken over his head and swung it in circles. 

Moments later, he pulled out his giant knife and cut the neck of the rubber chicken, the echoes of the squeaking toy resonating throughout southeast Washington.  The sacrifice to save a season had been performed.

The sacrifice is complete, another rubber chicken bites the dust.

Rubenstein continued to walk the perimeter of the ballpark as if to make sure that every last square foot of the centerfield gate area received the power of the sage.

The ritual was complete…

While some would say that 21 games into a season is too early to be cutting the heads off of chickens, both Rubenstein and Kaufman walked away from Nats Park on that Thursday afternoon knowing that it didn’t hurt to try.  And that night the Washington Nationals defeated the Cincinnati Reds 8-1.  So far so good…


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