In a country where professional sports teams and athletes are central to the lives of many fans waiting for their beloved franchises and star players to reach the top of the metaphorical sports totem pole and win the championship in their respective sport, some of those teams and players just cannot fully satisfy those fans every year.
Often brought up in discussion about sports franchises is the unfortunate, mythological and superstitious idea that curses are placed upon certain teams preventing them from reaching the sports pinnacle of a world championship achievement.
Most recently, we saw the Chicago Cubs overcome the Cleveland Indians in the 2016 World Series in a matchup that went all the way to game seven. The game followed a combined 174 season long drought of not winning the World Series for either team.
The news coverage leading up to the defying game seven meeting between the Cubs and Indians often included the idea of a curse that was cast on both teams many years ago.
For the Cubs, the last World Series win was in 1908, which served as the starting point for their 107 season-long period without winning a World Series. It wasn’t until 1945 when the actual “curse” was put on the team.
Billy Sianis, owner of The Billy Goat Tavern—a local Chicago bar—attempted to enter the World Series with two tickets, one for himself and the other for his pet goat. Needless to say, they made him leave Wrigley Field, but according to NBC News, he cursed the Chicago Cubs on the way out.
“Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more,” said Sianis as he created the curse of the billy goat.
This, however, was not the only curse placed on the Chicago Cubs.
In the 2003 National League Championship Series, Steve Bartman, a Cubs fan, reached over the wall in foul territory attempting to catch a foul ball but interfered with a player attempting to catch the same ball. After this controversial moment in the series, the Cubs never recovered from the heartbreak of losing that series-clinching game to move on to the World Series. This is now forever known as the curse of Steve Bartman.
For the Indians, the last World Series victory was in 1948. They have been said to be cursed since 1960 when they traded outfielder Rocky Colavito, a prominent power hitter of the time who was beloved by the fans of Cleveland, to the Detroit Tigers. On the day of the trade, the Indians were playing an exhibition game at historic Russwood Park in Memphis, Tennessee when the news broke of Colavito. Ironically enough, after the game the stadium was destroyed in a fire.
In other so called “curses” limiting the professional sports world, the MLB saw another historic losing streak come to an end in 2004.
In 1918, the Boston Red Sox traded their Hall of Fame legend Babe Ruth, who helped them win four World Series Championships in the seven years that he was there. His new team, the New York Yankees, went on to win 27 World Series titles while the the Red Sox did not win again until 2004, after an 86 season-long losing streak.
In other sports, the Cleveland Cavaliers brought the first major championship to the city since 1964 when they came back from a 3-1 deficit in the 2016 NBA Finals and defeated the Golden State Warriors. According to ESPN, the City of Cleveland, was at one point ranked as the most tortured sports city in America until the Cavaliers ended the 52-year championship drought.
The Buffalo Bills are also said to be cursed for their inability to win the Super Bowl after reaching the championship and losing four consecutive seasons from 1990 to 1993. The curse dates back to 1920 when the city of Buffalo’s first NFL team lost in the championship on a highly controversial tiebreaker.
Also in the NFL, the highly anticipated Madden video game is said to be cursed. Ever since 1998, the video game has featured one of the NFL’s biggest stars on the cover. But that is not something you may wish for as a successful professional athlete, even if it is a cover photo opportunity for a game like Madden, which is considered a legend among sports video games.
There have been 19 players who have graced the cover of Madden since 1998, and the Madden Curse has affected the careers of 17 of them. Some of the players have had troubled or shortened seasons following their cover debut while others have even suffered season-ending injuries soon after the video game hit stores.
Yes, I understand that these curses all may seem far-fetched, but it is certainly something you have to look into. It could be a matter of superstition as a fan, constantly blaming your favorite team or player’s shortcomings and struggles on a historic curse that has been passed down for generations. Or maybe there is this mythological factor behind sports that casts a certain spell or magical curse on a player or team leading them to constant and consistent failures and ultimately disappointments for fans.
As a Pittsburgh Pirates fan, I certainly believe in curses. The year I was born set off the 18 season-long drought as I grew up watching the Pirates lose year after year without making the playoffs. But the turning point was when I came to college in 2013 and the Pirates reached the postseason for the first time in 18 years. You can bet your bottom dollar that I went to that first game and cheered them on to victory. After that first playoff win in 18 seasons, the Pirates went on to make the playoffs for the next two years before coming up short this past season.
Even though these curses are often associated with negative connotations within society, they often bring out the best in us as sports fans. That moment when the Pittsburgh Pirates won the first playoff game, my eyes lit up with joy as I watched the crowd erupt with passion and loyal commitment that had been built up for 18 long and hard years.
That’s what brings out these historic sports moments—overcoming adversity, whether it is for one season or 107 seasons like the Cubs. It’s about coming together as a city, as fans, and for the franchises, as teammates, coaches and personnel.
That feeling when your team finally hoists up the championship trophy, or clinches a spot in the playoffs, is unlike any other feeling. Even as a fan you feel like you have something major to do with the scenarios leading up to the final play of the game. Even as an outsider who watched the game from a bar, at home on a TV or in the crowd at the stadium, arena or ballpark, you feel like you have accomplished something collectively as both a city and sports franchise.
As a Pittsburgh sports fan I know how that feels. Watching the Steelers win the most Super Bowls, watching the Penguins win multiple Stanley Cups and watching the Pirates make the playoffs in search of winning the World Series is such an amazing feeling.
I can imagine how the City of Chicago and the fans who have been supporting the Cubs through thick and thin over the years actually feel. The Cubs deserved this World Series victory.
This championship was overdue. Long overdue. As a matter of fact, about 107 years overdue.