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A sports-related curse is a superstitious belief in the effective action of some power or evil, that is used to explain the failures or misfortunes of specific sports teams, players, or even cities. Teams, players, and cities often cite a "curse" for many negative things, such as their inability to win a sports championship, or unexpected injuries.
Curse of 1940
The Curse of 1940 was a mythical explanation for the failure of the NHL's New York Rangers to win the Stanley Cup since 1940. It was broken when the Rangers defeated the Vancouver Canucks 4-3 in 1994.
Curse of '51
The Curse of '51 allegedly prevents Mayo from winning the Sam Maguire Cup ever again, or at least until the death has occurred of every member of the last winning team from 1951. It remains unbroken—despite the team reaching the Final on six occasions since then, they have either completely collapsed on the day or been undone by a series of other unfortunate events.
In 1989, Mayo reached their first All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Final since their last victory in 1951 only to lose to Cork. In 1996, a freak point by Meath at the end of the final forced a replay, which saw Mayo concede another late score that would deny them victory. Kerry bridged an 11-year title gap against them in 1997 with a three-point win, before torturing them by eight points in 2004 and thirteen points in 2006.
Mayo returned to the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Final in 2012. Even with Taoiseach Enda Kenny in Rome seeking divine intervention from Pope Benedict XVI the day before, the "Kafkaesque black farce" continued from where it had left off—with Donegal allowed bridge a 20-year gap between titles, helped in no small part by a nightmare opening quarter for Mayo as Michael Murphy—whose father is from Mayo—launched a rocket of a shot into the goal after three minutes. Then, in the eleventh minute, Colm McFadden seized the ball from the grasp of Kevin Keane and slid it into the net for a second Donegal goal. Mayo managed thirteen points to Donegal's two goals and eleven, only got on the scoresheet after sixteen minutes when already two goals behind and never led during the match.
Since winning the Indianapolis 500 in 1969, auto racing legend Mario Andretti was plagued with unexplainable bad luck in his efforts to win the great race for a second time before his retirement in 1994. The misfortune at Indianapolis has notably extended to his sons Michael and Jeff, nephew John, as well as grandson Marco. It is also said to have affected, to an indirect extent, his twin brother Aldo, former car owners Paul Newman, Carl Haas, and Newman's successor Mike Lanigan at Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing.
Curse of the Bambino
Some allege that there was a curse placed on the Boston Red Sox, who failed to win a World Series after 1918, apparently due to the selling of Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees. Before the sale, the Red Sox had won four titles in seven years (1912–1918). After the sale, the Yankees went on to win 26 World Series Championships. The "curse" was broken when the Red Sox defeated the St. Louis Cardinals, 4 games to 0 in the 2004 World Series (before the Series, the Sox had come back from a 3-games-to-0 deficit, a first in MLB history, to defeat the Yankees at Yankee Stadium for the American League pennant).
Curse of Biddy Early
Biddy Early was a 19th-century healer from Feakle in County Clare remembered as a witch. Her curse or prophecy was said variously to afflict two hurling teams which endured long droughts in the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship: Clare (1914–1995) and/or Galway (1923–1980). The two counties played a famous semi-final in the 1932 Championship: Clare won, but lost the final to Kilkenny. After Clare's "curse" was broken in 1995, Billy Loughnane from Ennis wrote to The Irish Times:
Biddy Early is fondly remembered in Co Clare as an extraordinary woman who devoted her time to comforting and healing the sick. She is not known ever to have cursed anyone. She experienced some difficulty with one local clergyman of the day who, for reasons of his own, would have her labelled a "witch". This clergyman's malicious intentions have been greatly assisted recently by those journalists and commentators (outside of Clare) who have been busily referring to the "Curse of Biddy Early". Who started this silly rubbish? ... Some of these people would try to tell us that Biddy decreed that Clare would win no All-Ireland until after all the 1914 team had passed away. Biddy Early died in 1875 before the foundation of the GAA and long before there was any inter-county competition!
Curse of Bill Barilko
NHL player Bill Barilko, of the Toronto Maple Leafs, had just scored the Stanley Cup winning goal in the 1951 season in Overtime against the Montreal Canadiens. In his off-season, he went on a fishing trip with his dentist. Their plane crashed, both passengers died. The Maple Leafs did not win another cup until 1962, 11 years after the crash, and the same year that Barilko was discovered. His number was retired by the Maple Leafs in honour of his legacy and remembrance after his death.
Curse of Billy Penn
The "Curse of Billy Penn" was cited as a reason for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania sports teams' failure to win championships since the Philadelphia 76ers swept the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1983 NBA Finals. Some[weasel words] fans believe that the city's breaking a gentlemen's agreement in 1987 that no skyscraper could be higher than the statue of William Penn on the top of the spire of City Hall put a curse on the city.
When the final beam in the construction of the Comcast Center (Philadelphia's tallest structure to date) was raised on June 18, 2007, iron workers of Local Union 401 attached a small figurine of William Penn to the beam in an attempt to break the curse. The following year, the Philadelphia Phillies won the 2008 World Series.
The city's sports teams have also lost in championship finals in years of presidential inaugurations, beginning with the 76ers' loss in the 1977 NBA Finals and includes the Phillies' loss in the 2009 World Series. During that span, each of the four city's teams have lost championships during such years twice.
Curse of Birmingham City F.C.
English football side Birmingham City F.C. played 100 years under a curse from 1906 to 2006. As the legend goes, the club moved from nearby Muntz Street into its current location at St Andrew's, building the stadium on land that was being used by the Romani people. After they were forced to move, the angry Romani people put an 100-year hex on the stadium. This curse is similar to one placed on Derby County FC.
Throughout the years many Birmingham City F.C. managers would try to remove the curse but with little success. Former manager Ron Saunders tried to banish the curse in the 1980s by placing crucifixes on floodlights and painting the bottom of his players’ boots red. Another manager, Barry Fry, in charge from 1993 to 1996, urinated in all four corners of the pitch after a clairvoyant said it would break the spell. On Boxing Day 2006 the curse was finally lifted and on that day Birmingham City F.C. celebrated a 2-1 win over Queens Park Rangers F.C..
Curse of Bobby Layne
In 1958, the Lions traded Bobby Layne to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Layne responded to the trade by supposedly saying that the Lions would "not win for 50 years". This story has been disputed as being a hoax, particularly because the quote was never published at the time.
Still, for the next 50 years after the trade, the Lions accumulated the worst winning percentage of any team in the NFL. They are still one of only two franchises that have been in the NFL since 1970 that have not played in a Super Bowl (the other team is the Cleveland Browns, but because of the three-year franchise suspension after the 1995 season, the Lions' streak is longer). The Lions postseason record in this time was 1-10 in ten appearances, their lone playoff win coming against Dallas following the 1991 season. In the last year of the supposed curse, in 2008, Detroit went 0-16, the first team to lose every game of a sixteen game season.
Buffalo Sports Curse
The Buffalo curse is an explanation for Buffalo's inability to win a Super Bowl, Stanley Cup, or, during the NBA team now known as the Los Angeles Clippers that originally played in Buffalo, an NBA championship. Those who believe in the Buffalo curse cite as examples the four consecutive Super Bowl losses by the Buffalo Bills from 1990–1993 (and their failure even to reach the playoffs since 1999), as well as the failure of the Buffalo Sabres ever to win the Stanley Cup (despite winning the Presidents' Trophy for most regular-season points in 2006–07). The Bills, however, won two American Football League titles (1964 and 1965), the latter occurring just months before an agreement was reached to merge the AFL and the NFL (Bills owner Ralph Wilson initiated the talks to merge the two leagues, according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame). In spite of that, it has been argued that this was achieved when the AFL was in its infancy as an upstart league, garnering little, if any, national attention before merging with the established NFL, and that even if they are considered to be at par, since there would be no Super Bowl until after the 1966 season, the Bills could be no greater than co-champions. There have been conflicting suggestions on how the Bills would have fared against the Green Bay Packers or Cleveland Browns, much as there have been disputes over how well the San Diego Chargers would have played against the Bears in 1963, had the Super Bowl existed at that time.
The earliest reference to the curse traces to 1921, when the city's first NFL team, the Buffalo All-Americans, lost the NFL championship that year to what is now the Chicago Bears on a controversial tiebreaker.
The curse does not extend to the city's fringe or minor league teams such as baseball's Buffalo Bisons, lacrosse's Buffalo Bandits, women's soccer's Western New York Flash several semi-pro and amateur football teams, and, during the 1960s, the Buffalo Bisons of the American Hockey League, all of which won championships in their respective leagues. The Flash are arguably not affected by the alleged curse for another reason—although the team has its headquarters and training facilities in Buffalo, and originally planned to divide its home games between Buffalo and Rochester, it played its entire home schedule during its inaugural 2011 season in Rochester.
The "curse" also does not extend to teams with athletes from Buffalo; in five years, four teams with Western New York players won the Stanley Cup between 2006 and 2010: Kevyn Adams, 2006 Carolina Hurricanes; Todd Marchant, 2007 Anaheim Mighty Ducks; Brooks Orpik, 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins; and Patrick Kane, 2010 Chicago Blackhawks; respectively.
Cardinals football curse
The Cardinals NFL franchise is allegedly suffering a curse by the citizens of Pottsville, Pennsylvania for undeservedly claiming the 1925 NFL championship from the Pottsville Maroons who were stripped of their title by the NFL in one of the greatest controversies in sports history. The curse will supposedly only be lifted when the championship is returned to Pottsville and to the correct shade of red team. The Cardinals team holds the NFL record for the longest championship drought. Arizona also lost Super Bowl XLIII to another Pennsylvania team: the Pittsburgh Steelers (whose founder Art Rooney supported Pottsville's claim to the title). The franchise also leads the NFL in the total number of losses (680 entering 2010).
The Cetkovská Curse
This term is used to describe Czech tennis player Petra Cetkovská's unusually dominant record against former World No. 2 and Polish player Agnieszka Radwańska. As of 2012, Cetkovská leads Radwańska in head to head 4–0.
Cleveland sports curse
Cleveland is particularly known for not winning a championship in any major sport since 1964, and although the Cleveland Browns won the 1964 NFL Championship Game, the match occurred two seasons prior to the first Super Bowl and six before the AFL–NFL merger. Nearly fifty years after winning their last league title, the Browns remain one of only four teams yet to play in the NFL title game during the modern era. More recently, the Cleveland Indians lost both the 1995 and 1997 World Series, and the Cleveland Cavaliers were swept in the 2007 NBA Finals. In 2004, ESPN.com ranked Cleveland the most tortured sports city in America.
Chicago baseball curses
Both of Chicago's baseball teams are or were involved in supposed curses. The Chicago Cubs, after benefiting from a baserunning error by New York Giants' Fred Merkle during the last couple of weeks in the season, won the 1908 World Series. Since then, the Cubs have not won a World Series despite participating as the National League champion seven times between 1910 and 1945. The 1945 World Series appearance was most notable because it marked the start of the Billy Goat curse. That incident involved Billy Sianis, owner of the Billy Goat Tavern, who was asked to leave a World Series game vs the Detroit Tigers because his pet goat's odor bothered other fans. The closest the Cubs would get to the World Series, since then, was five outs away in the 2003 NLCS when Steve Bartman made his foul ball catch.
As for the Chicago White Sox, gambling became a sin in Major League Baseball because the 1919 World Series was rumored to be fixed. As a result, the Cincinnati Reds won that series in eight games, and eight Sox players were banned by baseball for their actions in that series. The White Sox wouldn't win another World Series until the 2005 season when they swept the Houston Astros.
In snooker, the "Crucible Curse" refers to the fact that no first-time winner of the World Snooker Championship has successfully defended his title since the event was first held at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield in 1977. Of the 15 first-time champions in this era, only two have even made the final the following year, and five were eliminated in their first match. The "curse" can even be seen in the pre-Crucible era—the three first-time champions between the start of the championship's "modern era" in 1969 and its move to the Crucible all lost in their respective semifinal matches the next year.
Curse of the Colonel
This curse was supposedly cast on the Hanshin Tigers by Colonel Harland Sanders (the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken) after fans of said team threw his statue into a canal while celebrating the Tigers' 1985 Japan Championship Series.
Curse of Coogan's Bluff
The San Francisco Giants had a curse that attempted to explain their failure to win the World Series until 2010, which was known as the Curse of Coogan's Bluff. It originated when the Giants left New York City for San Francisco at the end of the 1957 season. Fans at the Giants' home ballpark, the Polo Grounds (located at a site in Harlem called Coogan's Bluff), professed that the Giants would never win a World Series away from New York.
Since then, the Giants reached the World Series in 1962, 1989, and 2002, and when they finally won in 2010, it was in Arlington, not San Francisco. Again, in 2012, the Giants won the World Series on the road, defeating the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park, Detroit. Furthermore, two Series games in San Francisco had very long delays. In the '62 Series, Game 6 was postponed three days because of heavy rain and Game 3 of the '89 Series was put on hold for ten days due to a massive earthquake.
Curse of Derby County FC
English football side Derby County FC were placed under a curse by a group of Romani Gypsies who were forced to move from a camp so that they could build their stadium the Baseball Ground. The curse was that Derby County would never win the FA Cup. This mirrors the curse placed on Birmingham City F.C..
Despite reaching six FA Cup semi finals between 1896 and 1903, including three finals, they never managed to win the trophy. The next time they reached the final was in 1946 against Charlton Athletic. In the build up to the final, a representative from the club went to meet with Gypsies in an attempt to lift the curse. During the Match, with the score tied at 1-1, the ball burst. It has since been seen by fans of the club as the moment the curse lifted. Derby County went on to win the match 4-1.
Curse of the Garabato
The Colombian football team América de Cali was under a curse since 1948. There was a discussion this year, in a meeting held by team owners, about moving América into the professional league. Benjamín Urrea, one of the owners, was opposed to the idea, so he said famously "Let's them do with the team what they want... but I swear to God they will never be champions". He left the room, while the other owners laughed at him, and he never returned to the team. The team had to wait for 31 years to get its first professional title, in 1979. In 1980, journalist Rafael Medina and singer Antonio del Vivar performed an exorcising ritual on América's home field, to help the team to overcome the curse in the Copa Libertadores, the tournament that decides which team is the South American champion. After that performance, the team went to win five straight national titles, but, notwithstanding the seven more national championships that the team has obtained since then, some fans still believe the curse is alive, as América de Cali is famous for not having been able to win this South American title. The team has been four times the runner-up in Copa Libertadores, three of them in a row - 1985, 1986 and 1987. The last of the sequence was especially painful to the fans, as the team lost the title in the last minute of overtime in the third match, when the tie would award them the title due to goal difference, leading a Colombian narrator to a dramatic narration of the goal.
América de Cali is known as The Red Devils because the shield of the team sports a devil, with horns, tail and trident, which lead to some players masking their own shield with tape to overcome the curse, apparently to no avail. During Gabriel Ochoa twelve years tenure as coach the crest was removed from the uniform for personal religious reasons and, after returning to the uniforms, it was removed again in 1992. In 2010 the crest with the devil was revived and the team went into severe financial problems that moved the Colombian football authorities to ask the team to pay its debts if they wanted to play during the 2011 season.
Curse of Gillette
Marketing experts have highlighted the "curse of Gillette", given the mishaps that happen to sports stars which are associated with the brand, most notably Tiger Woods, Thierry Henry and David Beckham.
Curse of the Honey Bears
George Halas, owner of the Chicago Bears hired a cheerleading squad in 1977 known as the Honey Bears. When he died in 1983, he left the team to his daughter, Virginia Halas McCaskey. Virginia McCaskey did not like the cheerleaders at all because she saw them as "sex objects", and tried to have them disbanded, but the Honey Bears had a contract through the 1985 season. The Bears lost only one regular season game that year and won Super Bowl XX, but the Honey Bears contract was not renewed. In spite of repeated attempts to bring back the Honey Bears, the idea has been killed by the organization, and the Bears have not won the Super Bowl since then. The last time the Bears appeared in the Super Bowl was Super Bowl XLI. They were defeated by Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts by a score of 29-17.
Curse of Jeffrey Maier
This curse, originally coined in the book The Worst of Sports, is the supposed explanation of the Baltimore Orioles not making it to or winning a World Series since 1983. In Game One of the 1996 American League Championship Series, Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees hit a fly ball to right field. Jeffrey Maier, a 12-year-old fan from Old Tappan, New Jersey, reached over the fence to retrieve the ball, and, instead of ruling it as fan interference, umpire Rich Garcia ruled it a home run, allowing the Yankees to win the game, the AL pennant, and eventually, the World Series. While this home run put a curse on the Orioles, other events have contributed to the curse, including:
- The relocation of the Baltimore Colts to Indianapolis in 1984;
- The Orioles' season starting 21-game losing streak in 1988;
- The loss of Dennis Martínez, José Mesa and Eddie Murray to the Cleveland Indians, which anticipated the Cleveland Browns relocation controversy;
- The relocation of the Montreal Expos to Washington, D.C., to become the Washington Nationals, and the Orioles' opposition to the move;
- Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa testifying to Congress on steroid use in baseball
- The Orioles' collapse during the 2005 season.
- The Orioles' loss to the New York Yankees in the 2012 ALDS
- The signing of then-manager Buck Showalter to a five-year contract extension prior to the 2013 season.
This is the name given to AFL club Hawthorn's current ten-match losing streak against rivals Geelong. As of 2013, Hawthorn has not beaten Geelong since winning the 2008 AFL Grand Final. Then-Hawthorn President Jeff Kennett proclaimed that Geelong "lacked the mentality to defeat Hawthorn" after the Hawks won the 2008 premiership. However, since then, Geelong have defeated Hawthorn ten times in a row, most of which have been decided by less than 10 points. The winning streak is often also attributed to comments made by Paul Chapman that the Cats will "never lose to them again" following the 2008 Grand Final.
Curse of LaBonte
In the 1972 Air Canada Silver Broom curling tournament, Robert LaBonte, the skip of American team, accidentally kicked the stone belonging to the Canadian team at the end of the match. This put the match into an extra end, and Canada won one more point to win the championship. Canada did not win another World Championship until 1980, and this was said that LaBonte put a "curse" on Canada.
Prior to 1999, every annual installment of the Madden NFL Franchise primarily featured Madden on its cover. In 1999, Electronic Arts selected Garrison Hearst to appear on the PAL version's cover, and has since featured one of the league's top players on every annual installment despite Madden's opposition.
While appearing on the cover has become an honor akin to appearing on the Wheaties box, much like the Sports Illustrated Cover Jinx, certain players who appeared on Madden video game box art have experienced a decline in performance, usually due to an injury.
When asked about the "Madden Curse", Chris Erb, then director of marketing for Madden, commented, "I don't know that we believe in the curse. The players don't believe in the curse."
Curse of Muldoon
A curse allegedly placed on the Chicago Blackhawks in 1927 by head coach Pete Muldoon when he was fired, stating that they would never again finish in first place. The "curse" was first mentioned in print in 1943 by Toronto sportswriter Jim Coleman. They would not finish in first place in their division (1928–1937) or in the single-division NHL (after 1938) until 1967, the final season of the Original Six era, despite winning the Stanley Cup three times since Muldoon supposedly "cursed" the team. However, immediately after this, Coleman admitted that he had completely fabricated the "curse" to break a writer's block.
Par 3 curse
San Diego sports curse
The city of San Diego, California, USA, has never claimed a modern North American major league professional sports championship (Super Bowl, World Series, Stanley Cup, or NBA Finals). San Diego is currently home to the National Football League's San Diego Chargers and Major League Baseball's San Diego Padres. San Diego does not have a National Hockey League franchise. The city has previously hosted two teams from the National Basketball Association: the San Diego Rockets from 1967 to 1971 (now located in Houston, Texas), and the San Diego Clippers from 1978 to 1984 (now located in Los Angeles, California).
Socceroos witch doctor curse
In a story told in Johnny Warren's 2002 autobiography, Sheilas, Wogs and Poofters: During a trip to play against Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in the 1970 Mexico World Cup qualifiers in Mozambique, members of the Australian national soccer team (nicknamed the "Socceroos") including Warren consulted a witch doctor preceding their game. The witch doctor buried bones near the goal-posts and cursed the opposition, and Australia went on to beat Rhodesia 3–1 in the decider. However, the move backfired when the players could not come up with the £1000 demanded by the witch doctor as payment and he subsequently cursed the team. Subsequently, the Socceroos failed to beat Israel and did not qualify.
Whilst the curse is used as an explanation for failing to qualify for the World Cup for 32 years, including in the last match in the 1994, 1998 and 2002 qualifications, the curse is used in particular reference to the failure to qualify for the 1998 World Cup by drawing on aggregate against Iran, despite leading 2–0 in the second half of the final match of qualification.
The curse was supposedly lifted by John Safran during his 2004 TV series John Safran vs God. After reading the story in Warren's book, Safran travelled to Mozambique and hired a new witch doctor to channel the original to reverse the curse. The following year, the Socceroos not only qualified for the 2006 World Cup, but reached the second round before being beaten by Italy in Kaiserslautern.
It is worth noting that their appearance in the 1974 FIFA World Cup came after the supposed curse had been placed. However, they failed to score a goal in any of their three opening round matches, and were eliminated.
Sports Illustrated cover curse
NASCAR racetrack Talladega Superspeedway has been said to have been cursed by a Native American shaman; other stories claim that it was built on an Indian Burial Ground. The curse explains the high number of unusual occurrences, untimely deaths, and spectacular accidents that have plagued the track since its opening in 1969.
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- "GAA: Clare". breakingnews.ie. 18 February 2008. Retrieved 2009-05-20. "that old witch named Biddy Early, who put a curse on Clare hurlers, deciding that they would never win another All-Ireland hurling title until the whole team consisted of bachelors."
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- "Despite the blistering defeat — those Galway hurlers hold promise". Connacht Tribune. 9 August 1974. p. 9. "Galway's ... sensational 'Biddy Early' defeat by Clare at Limerick in 1932"
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- The game-winning goal
- The breaking of the curse.
- So close, so painful
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- The lake effect
- Buffalo Curse
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- The NFL's forgotten legend
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