In his 16 years in the superstitious precincts of the NFL, Charlie Joiner has picked up his share of quirks and oddities. For instance:
?He has to leave for a game four hours before kickoff, no earlier, no later. If it's a road game, he'll go in a taxi and he'll always ride with Sid Brooks, the Chargers' equipment manager.
?Nothing can ever be out of place in his locker, which looks as if it could pass a military inspection. He was. in fact, in the Army reserve from 1969 to '74.
?He'll never wear anything new in a game—socks, jerseys, anything. "One time, by mistake, I cleaned his helmet and polished it," Brooks says. "When he saw it, Charlie asked me to go outside and knock it against the wall and take the shine off." And he won't wear the modern "air" helmet. He still has his old suspension model, with its outmoded face mask. "I told him once that they'd quit making that style and someday he'd have to change," Brooks says, "and he almost had a fit. He said. 'What if I break it? You've got to find me a backup.' So I found an old one somewhere, and he started wearing it, just to break it in for emergency use."
?He has to be the first player in the locker room on game days. He likes to be the last one to leave the locker room for team meetings—as long as he's not late. In his 16 seasons he has never been fined.
?If he drops a ball, or if a defender knocks away a pass headed for him, he'll go through the following ritual: He'll sit down, pull his socks up, clap his hands once, place his hands under his butt and push himself upright, keeping his feet in place. Watch for it. It's a rare sight.