Eight-year-old Palmer Kiefer put on his University of Kansas jersey nearly two weeks ago, the night before KU’s first game in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
Kansas beat Detroit the next day – thanks in part, Palmer thinks, to the lucky blue jersey.
So he kept wearing it. Day and night.
The Jayhawks won the next game, too, a come-from-behind nail-biter against Purdue. Score one more for the lucky jersey.
Palmer – his family calls him “Poppy” – wore the jersey all through spring break. He wore it to Tanganyika Wildlife Park and the Sedgwick County Zoo.
He bathed but kept the jersey out of the hamper, away from the washing machine. He didn’t want to wash away the luck.
Palmer spilled some ketchup on the jersey during dinner at Freddy’s. There’s another stain he thinks might be sloppy joe, and a smudge of vanilla ice cream. The jersey started to smell bad. He didn’t mind.
He wore it last weekend when Kansas beat North Carolina State, though his mother made him change the T-shirt underneath.
He was still wearing the jersey – No. 15, like Elijah Johnson and Mario Chalmers – when KU beat North Carolina to get to this weekend’s Final Four.
Rock Chalk, lucky jersey!
Palmer’s mom, Susan, a KU graduate, started to worry. Palmer had to go back to school at Hyde Elementary on Monday, and she knew he’d want to wear that disgusting shirt. She posted a warning on Facebook:
Friends and fellow Jayhawks fans supported Palmer.
“Don’t you DARE wash that jersey!” one posted.
“Just think of it as less laundry,” wrote another.
Somebody suggested spraying it with Febreze.
“No Febreze!” another friend wrote. “That could mess with the juju!”
Susan Kiefer shakes her head and laughs.
If the Jayhawks keep winning, “I’m stuck in a parenting nightmare,” she said.
“Do I let my son walk around town and go to school every day looking like a child whose mother doesn’t know how to operate a washing machine?
“Or do I just shut my mouth and hope to chant that awesome chant two more times and stand the jersey up on its own in a corner when it’s all said and done?”
So far, feedback seems to favor superstition. Palmer wore the jersey to school again Tuesday.
He brought his second-grade class picture home, and his mom laughed when she saw it: There was Palmer in the front row, wearing red shorts and the KU jersey. She remembers him asking to wear it for picture day months ago, and she agreed because “It’s just so him.”
At least it was clean back then.
He plans to wear the jersey at least until Saturday night, when he hopes the Jayhawks will beat Ohio State. If that happens, he’ll wear it all weekend and through Monday’s national title game.
“I can’t be the only mom going through this,” Susan Kiefer said. “Or maybe I’m just that lucky.”