As we all prepare for Omaha, every college baseball fan not on the East Coast has prepared their #Curseof55 tweets. We are now celebrating the 60th anniversary of the last time an ACC team won the college baseball national title (Wake Forest, of all teams), and SEC fans especially are hoping to extend the curse at least one more year.
It's one of my favorite goofy sports curses because it's primarily used for trash talk than any actual examination of a curse or a jinx. There aren't any mystic forces at work in sports, and God doesn't really care which team wins. And if He did, the Yankees certainly wouldn't have so many World Series flags.
But sports curses are still fun. They provide color to the sports we watch, as we see players and teams rail against the wrath of the sports gods. Here are the ten best American sports curses. A key word is "American", which excludes international soccer mainly because I don't want to miss any of the good ones. I'm partial to the Socceroos being cursed because they hired a voodoo witch doctor to curse another team and then refused to pay him, which strikes me as an extraordinarily bad idea. Still, I'm excluding the rest of the world primarily due to my own ignorance of all international sports.
None of the listed curses is an implied endorsement of that curse, nor is it an admission that the curse exists, or ever existed. Still, you should bring them up just to make the fans of these teams upset.
10. The Curse of 1955
I have no idea why the baseball gods have decided to smite the ACC, as I know of no story of how the Wake Forest championship team disrespected Omaha or anything. The Curse of 55 is an example that the sports gods are capricious and cruel. Florida St. has been to the College World Series 21 times, and is yet to win a national title. Miami won four national titles, the last coming in 2001. The Canes joined the ACC in 2004. That's peak Curse of 55.
9. The Curse of the Based God
I have to admit, this has the potential to climb up the ranks, as I'm enjoying watching a curse form before our very eyes. Kevin Durant took to twitter a few years back to claim that Lil B wasn't relevant, and Lil B then dropped this bomb:
KEVIN DURANT WILL NEVER WIN THE TITLE AFTER HE SAID "LIL B" IS A WACK RAPPER, "THE BASEDGODS CURSE" #THEBASEDGODSCURSE ON DURANT - Lil B— Lil B From The Pack (@LILBTHEBASEDGOD) May 26, 2011
Since then, Durant's career has been a bit of disaster, and Lil B has taken to holding other teams hostage, like Atlanta and Cleveland. The Cavs begged their way out of the Based God's wrath, but Lil B was not so merciful towards the Hawks, who missed the Finals after posting the East's best record. The curse is real, yo.
8. We Have No Idea Why We're Cursed
Hockey's just as deeply superstitious as baseball, yet it hasn't really given us all that many great curses. There used to be 1940, but the Rangers snapped that in 1994. And the Flames inexplicably trading their best player to the Leafs for a bag of magic beans ever other decade isn't so much a curse as general incompetence.
However, the Blues and the Caps are most definitely cursed, we just have no earthly idea why. The Blues were the first expansion team to make the Stanley Cup Final, doing so three years in a row from 1967-70. They have never been back, despite once going to the playoffs in 25 consecutive years. The Capitals, on the other hand, have blown a two-game lead in a playoff series a remarkable ten times, and they didn't even make the playoffs until 1983. So, in the roughly 30 years they have been going to the postseason, they've blown a huge series lead, on average, once every three years. Speaking as a Cap fan, I honestly have no idea what we ever did to anger the hockey gods, but whatever it was, we're really f'n sorry.
7. The Chicken Curse
The best summary of the Chicken Curse can be found here at the Vanderbilt blog, Anchor of Gold. That's right, things are bad when even Vanderbilt feels comfortable running smack about you. Do you know how hopeless things must be to have Vanderbilt fans pause and say, "Wow, at least we aren't those guys?"
I do like that the curse starts with a guy throwing a pitchfork into the ground. That's an emphatic cursing. Since then, USC has failed to ever win an SEC title in football, a curse so powerful that not even Steve Spurrier could break it. Fear the Chicken Curse.
6. The Curse of the Bambino
This one has been driven into the ground. Yes, the Red Sox were dumb to trade quite possibly the greatest player in baseball history for cash considerations, so they could put on a play. But that's not really the curse. The real curse is the Curse of Tom Yawkey, who bought the team in 1933. Yawkey was racist even by the rather lenient standards of 1933, and under his guidance, the Red Sox were the last MLB team to integrate, in 1959. Jackie Robinson called Yawkey one of the most bigoted men in baseball and let's be honest, Jackie was in the position to know. The Red Sox failed to finish within 10 games of 1st place for 17 years (1950-66). The Red Sox got good in his later years, but lost the classic 1975 World Series to the Big Red Machine despite Fisk waving the ball fair. Yawkey died in 1976. Apparently, the stink lasted a few more decades before the Sox could be free of that curse. Leave the Babe out of it.
5. The Cover Curse
First it was Sports Illustrated, then it was Madden. Really, it's the same curse: once you reach the peak of your fame and popularity, you will be honored and feted, and then inevitably decline. To which I have to say, Duh. You normally end up on the cover of magazines for the best moment of your career, so of course it is all downhill from there. Know who wasn't affected by this curse? Michael Jordan, who was on the cover pretty much nonstop throughout the ‘90s. The Madden curse is a bit dicier, but players still tend to get on the cover a year after their best season. Let the word "best" be your guide. Still, it's one of the most well-known curses in sports, even if it is really the same thing.
4. The Curse of Billy Penn
I love this curse because it shows the power of people trying to proactively break a curse. Apparently, there was a gentlemen's agreement that no building in Philly could be taller than the statue of William Penn atop City Hall, an agreement broken in 1987. The Phillies had won the title in 1980, the Flyers in 1975, and the Sixers in 1983. All that came to an abrupt halt in 1987. Philadelphia went into a long championship drought in all sports. However, in 2007, Philadelphia completed construction of the new Comcast Center, the new tallest building in the city. The workers placed a small figurine of William Penn atop the new structure, lifting the Curse. In 2008, the Phillies won the World Series.
So good on Philly for not taking their curse lying down. Don't complain about curses, try to appease those sports god. If that fails, boo Santa Claus.
3. The Curse of Being Cleveland
Cleveland's sports history is one of almost unending misery. The Drive. Red Right 88. Pretty much anything to do with the Indians. The Move. The Decision. The Fumble. It's pretty much all been bad since the Browns won the NFL title in 1964. And that's pre-Super Bowl, the last title trophy Cleveland won that still exists is the 1948 World Series. LeBron is one the verge of breaking this one pretty much all by himself, getting the hopes of an entire city up. You can probably see where I think the NBA Finals are going. Try and imagine the most painful way for the Cavs to lose. Then multiple it by 10, and that's the likely outcome. It's really just too depressing to think about.
2. The Curse of the Billy Goat
Cubs fans try and blame their title drought, starting in 1908, on a billy goat. It's a neat story, about how Billy Sianis was turned away due to the stench of his goat. Here's the thing, that was in 1945. The Cubs were ALREADY cursed at this point. Again, this is people missing the actual curse going on. More accurately, the Cubs are still suffering under the Curse of Merkle's Boner.
In 1908, the Giants and Cubs were in a tight pennant race. Al Bridwell hit a game-winning single for the Giants, and Giant fans mobbed the field. Merkle, who was on first base, decided not to risk the mob abd as was the custom at the time, did not advance to second base. Cubs second baseman and notorious red-ass Johnny Evers retrieved a ball and stepped on second base, appealing the umpires for the out. Despite the fact it likely wasn't even the right ball and the rule had never really been enforced in this manner, the umpire ruled Merkle out after the fact and the game had to be replayed at a later date. The Cubs won, took the pennant by the margin of a single game, and went on to win the World Series.
Fred Merkle was haunted by his "Boner" for the rest of his life, and the Cubs have never won the World Series since. So maybe he got the last laugh. It's the Curse of the Merkle.
1. The Curse of Pottsville
Hell hath no fury like a small town scorned.
The Pottsville Maroons were the best pro football team in 1925. They seemingly secured the NFL title by beating the Chicago Cardinals 21-7 (there were no playoffs back then). However, the Maroons played an exhibition game in Philadelphia (just to be safe from curses, one should avoid Philly) which may or may not have violated the territorial rights of the Frankford Yellow Jackets.
Frankford complained, and NFL commissioner Joseph Carr ruled in their favor, suspending the entire Pottsville team. The Cardinals took advantage by scheduling two games against teams that had already been disbanded, adding high school kids to their teams so they would have enough players to take the field and lose to the Cardinals. By virtue of these two extra wins, the Cardinals won the 1925 NFL title by less than savory means. To their credit, the Cardinals declined the title in 1925, but later claimed the title in 1933 when Bill Bidwell bought the team.
The Cardinals have never won a title since, and have vigorously opposed any attempt to grant Pottsville, PA their rightful title. The closest the Cardinals have come to a title was Super Bowl XLIII, when the Cardinals lost to the Steelers, another Pennsylvania team. The NFL denied a petition to reopen the case in 2003, and the longest title drought in the NFL marches on.