Sports’ Greatest Curses Explained

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I don’t believe in curses. They’ve never been something I’ve really identified with. And as a sports writer, that means that I’ve come across some of the biggest ones. Curse of the Bambino, the Cubs goat curse, Curse of the Black Sox. There are so many things out there that say such and such team is cursed. I don’t believe it.

There are perfectly good explanations as to why teams don’t win. The White Sox have never had a really good owner or a really large fanbase. Without as much money as other teams, the team wasn’t as likely to win the World Series. The Red Sox faced enormous pressures. But when it came down to it, they’ve always been in the same division as the historically great Yankees, and used to be against the Dodgers regularly. The Cubs, before the Rickets, never really had a great owner.

So let’s take a look at the individual curses, and break them down.

The Curse of the Billy Goat, aka the Cubs curse: This curse came about after the Cubs purportedly barred a goat from a World Series game in 1945. The owner of the goat, Billy Sianis, said “them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more”. That was the last time the Cubs appeared in the World Series.

Now here’s why: the NL has always had great teams. That was just proven, with the Cubs (*gasp*) and the Dodgers. Since 1945, the Cubs have only come close to winning the NL pennant 5 times. Two are within the last two years. Apart from this year, the Cubs have only won one other time.billygoat

This is because of the presence of dynasties, and teams with great players. It’s because the NL has some of the best teams in baseball, always has. This includes the Dodgers, the Giants, the Braves, the Cardinals, and the Phillies. Those teams also don’t have to share their market. That means they can attract bigger stars. The largest star the Cubs have ever had, perhaps prior to this year, is Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks. He was drafted by the team.

The team has had trouble shining brighter as a place to land top talent. That’s also because before the 2000s the Cubs weren’t a terrible team. They had only come close to last 7 times since 1945. That’s not enough to get top tier talent. That is, until the 2010s – and that’s when this team was assembled.

So really, this has more to do with drafting and never deciding to rebuild. Let’s put this in modern terms: the Buffalo Bills aren’t cursed. They’ve always been middle of the pack, and they haven’t gotten the talent to spark a rebuild. That’s what the Cubs have been, just over a longer time.

Favorite moment: after being traded to the Red Sox, Bill Buckner was wearing a Cubs hitting glove when he let the ball go between his legs. Apparently other teams can be affected by a goat.

The Curse of the Bambino: After selling the rights to Babe Ruth to New York, the fates of the Red Sox and Yankees switched. After being a successful team, the Red Sox began to fail. The Yankees, on the other hand, became the biggest sports dynasty maybe ever.baberuthtraded

This, to me, comes down to money. Boston has never been as big as New York. That means they don’t have as many fans, which means smaller revenue. New York, on the other hand, is all about the Yankees. This started after the acquisition of Ruth. It’s continued through the Steinbrenners and Derek Jeter. The Yankees are the “Best Team that Money Can Buy”. That started with Ruth.

Here’s why I don’t believe that curse: that 0-3 comeback, the reverse sweep of 2004, it never would have happened if the Red Sox were cursed. Just like the Cubs season this year should never have happened.

Many of Boston’s cursed moments came down to bad managing. That includes the decision to stay with Pedro. Some came down to the League being not yet the level it is now. That includes losing the pennant by half a game to the Tigers. The Red Sox, given the same number of games, would have won it easily.

Favorite moment: the money that was gained from selling Ruth was purportedly used on Broadway musicals.

The Curse of the Honey Bears: Chicago is the town of curses. Four of the five teams have purportedly had curses placed upon them. This includes the Chicago Bears.

The curse: When Virginia McCaskey, George Halas’s daughter, got the team after his death, she disbanded the cheerleaders. The squad was popular in Chicago, and she tried to disband them well before their contracts were up. She reportedly stated the reason was that the cheerleaders were viewed as “sex objects”.

1985 was also the last (and only) Bears Super Bowl victory. Now here’s the thing: this is probably the most easy curse to explain.

1985 is often credited to Mike Ditka. That can’t be further from the truth, and more than anything Ditka was an offensive coordinator. The defense (which won the season) was entirely Buddy Ryan’s. He was hired as head coach of the Eagles the year after.

Walter Payton, the greatest member of the Bears’ offense, was also aging after 1985, and he retired two years later. He was well past his prime in 1985, but was able to be a factor in the playoffs. Many plays used him as a decoy, and this is why he did not score in the 1985 Super Bowl.

Here’s the best explanation: for years afterwards, the Bears remained stagnant. As members of their defense left, they continued to make the playoffs, but weren’t the same without a young Walter Payton and Buddy Ryan. They didn’t draft high, and their talent level fell off.

And then Brett Favre entered their division. The Packers got great, and haven’t stopped since Favre, what with Aaron Rodgers. They also began running into a historically great San Francisco team in the playoffs, a team that seemed built to beat a Bears defense.

In fact, all of the teams around them got better, especially in their division.

Favorite Moment: Conceivably, the 2006 Super Bowl loss for the Bears could be blamed on this curse. Instead of bad head coaching from Lovie Smith and having to rely upon Rex Grossman at QB.

The Curse of Fifty Years: In 1958, the Detroit Lions traded Bobby Layne. Layne purportedly responded by saying the Lions wouldn’t win for fifty years. As a Lions fan, this curse’s explanation is going to hurt me.

If the curse was for fifty years, why haven’t we won a title post-2008? Also, why was our worst season ever in 2008? 0-16 was that year. If the curse was real, as soon as it was lifted we should have won. Instead, we’ve been nothing better than 11-5. That season, we were robbed by bad refereeing. That seems to be the Lions narrative.

The Lions didn’t have a ground breaking player until Barry Sanders. He came along in 1989 – two years before Brett Favre. A time when the Bears were still relatively good. With two playoff teams within the division, there was no way we were getting there. To add to this, our team wasn’t phenomenal like the Packers or Bears, only Barry Sanders was.

We wouldn’t have a groundbreaking talent again after Sanders retired until Calvin Johnson. Now, our team was mismanaged and without a quarterback. Until Matthew Stafford came along. The two started gelling, but got nowhere without a defense.

And then, when everything had come together, we were robbed of a defensive pass interference call. We also have a bad coach (Jim Caldwell) who did not emotionally react as he should have. He should have challenged that ref, and he did not. We had our best chance that season, and we lost it because of mismanagement and because of our long running rivalry with the NFL’s referees.

Favorite moment: That 0-16 season. It’s why our offense is now as good as it is. Won us Matthew Stafford.

 

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The Curse of Lil B: Once upon a time, not so long ago, there was a Twitter beef. This was not your average twitter feud, this was a celebrity twitter feud. Between Rapper Lil’ B and NBA MVP Kevin Durant. Lil’ B cursed Kevin Durant to never win the championship. So far, that’s happened.

 

Although this is largely because of the other teams in the NBA. The West has always had good teams. There is a dynasty in the San Antonio Spurs. The Lakers, with Kobe Bryant, always remained an able team. Same with Dallas and Dirk Nowitzki. And then, the Golden State Warriors took off.

Therefore, the Oklahoma City Thunder, Kevin Durant’s former team, have only had two true shots at the NBA Championship. During their first, they ran into the super Miami team. They got that series to be a longer one, but ultimately lost.

The second was this last year. The Oklahoma City Thunder were up 3-1 on the greatest regular season team in NBA history, the Golden State Warriors. And then the Thunder blew up. The Warriors came back and defeated the Thunder. And then got beat after having a 3-1 series lead themselves.

And now, Kevin Durant has joined that Warriors team. It’s the ultimate “if you can’t beat em, because you had an epic meltdown and weren’t good down the stretch, join em” move.

As an Oklahoma City Thunder fan, I hope this curse is real. It may be the only one I believe in.

Favorite moment: Lil’ B made a song of the curse:

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