Rod Strickland’s habit of eating hot dogs and his propensity to throw them up has taken on a life of its own over the years. We both marvel at how someone can play a sport at its highest level with such poor nutrition and get a little disgusted at how someone can keep doing the same thing over and over again, especially once they know the negative effects.
What we often forget to consider when it comes to his eating habits is why he resorted to eating junk food before games in the first place. After a notable incident in 1998, when Strickland threw up during a game against the Nets, he talked with Ric Bucher of the Washington Post about why he ate what he did before games, and why he wasn’t going to change:
“I'm sure the coaches would like me to, but it's just that I don't have a structured system. I get up when I want to get up and sometimes, if I'm running late, I don't have time to eat before I leave for the game."
He dispelled the idea that eating junk food before a game is part of some superstition. "It's not a ritual," he said. "Sometimes I just need to get something in my stomach. And sometimes that's not good because I have a weak stomach, anyway. Hey, I'm a contradiction."
Believe it or not, he also has a discerning palate as well. He won't eat energy or nutrition bars, he said, "because that stuff is nasty. I'm a very finicky person. There's not much I like. But pizza and hot dogs, you can't mess that up. That's my feeling, anyway."
To put it more bluntly: Strickland decided he’d rather eat junk food and occasionally barf during games because was too lazy to get up at a decent time and he avoided healthier alternatives he thought were yucky. You can’t put a redeeming spin on that. He was just making poor choices.
It gets worse when you remember the reason he was late most of the time is because he stayed up so late the night before. While there's nothing wrong with being a night owl, you have to know where to draw the line. Clearly based on his history of getting in trouble late at night and missing practices because he overslept, it wasn’t his best quality.
So while Strickland’s pregame meals will always be fun to talk about, they’re not just some innocent little eccentricity. They should also serve as a reminder of the vicious cycle of poor habits which kept him and his teams from ever fully living up to their potential.