Superstition and sports go together like tricking and treating. Over the years, various fan bases and players have had luck bad enough to make them look beyond the grave in search of the source of their sports woes. With Halloween right around the corner, The McGill Tribune lists seven of the spookiest curses to ever plague the sports world.
The Curse of William Penn
In 1985, construction began on a skyscraper currently known as One Liberty Place in downtown Philadelphia. By 1987, it was the tallest building in the city. This, however, broke a long-held tradition of no building rising above the statue of the founder of Pennsylvania, William Penn, that was attached to City Hall, beginning the curse of William Penn.
No major Philadelphia sports team would win a championship for 20 years. In 2007, a beam was added to City Hall, making the William Penn statue the tallest structure in the city once again. A little over a year later, the Phillies won the 2008 World Series in five games. Philadelphians learned their lesson, and remain appropriately vigilant of William Penn.
The Madden Curse
Since its inception in 1999, Madden NFL has carried with it a dark scourge on the athletes that graced its front cover. The curse made itself known in 1999 when the first athlete to be featured on the cover, Garrison Hearst, led the San Francisco 49ers to the playoffs, only to suffer a horrifying ankle injury that kept him from playing for the next two years. The very next year, one of the greatest running backs of all time, Barry Sanders, suddenly announced his retirement from the league immediately following his Madden 2000 cover announcement. The curse has continued to this day, afflicting players as successful as Drew Brees, Michael Vick, and Adrian Peterson. Headed into the 2020-2021 season, we’ll see if the curse continues with Lamar Jackson, this year’s Madden cover athlete.
The Curse of the Colonel
The Curse of the Colonel has affected the Japanese Central League’s Hanshin Tigers baseball team since 1985. Hanshin fans were celebrating a Japan Championship Series victory by pulling lookalikes of the Tigers’ players from the crowd of supporters and having them jump into the Dōtonbori River. However, as there was no lookalike of American MVP Randy Bass available, the Tigers’ devotees decided that a nearby statue of KFC mascot Colonel Sanders would do, and launched it into the river. The Colonel cursed the Tigers from his watery grave, which affects the team to this day. Although the statue was later recovered, his left hand and glasses remain missing, dooming the Tigers to 10 last-place finishes in 18 seasons and defeat in the 2003, 2005, and 2014 Japan Series.
The Curse of The Bambino
Perhaps the most famed sports curse, the Curse of The Bambino, began in 1918 when the Boston Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees for $125,000. The curse continued 86 years until the Red Sox came back from a 0-3 deficit to the Yankees in the 2004 World Series. Boston sports fans were so desperate to break the losing streak that they put a baseball cap on top of Mount Everest, pushed a piano formerly owned by Babe Ruth into a pond, wrote books, and renamed streets. While it’s unclear what broke the curse, it clearly worked. Since 2004, the Red Sox have won three more championships, while the Patriots have won five NFL titles, the Celtics have claimed one NBA title, and the Bruins brought home one NHL title.
The New York Knicks
Valued at $4.6 billion, the New York Knicks have been the most valuable franchise in the NBA for the past five years due to their huge fan base and storied past. Despite this, the Knicks haven’t managed to win an NBA championship since 1973. In the nearly five decades that have followed, the Knicks have been astonishingly abysmal, only flirting with success in the Patrick Ewing era of the 1990s. James Dolan took ownership of the Knicks in 1999, and since then, Knicks fans everywhere have cringed and despaired at a seemingly never-ending series of bad decisions.
For Knicks fans, there seems to be no end in sight. Despite boycotts, and chants for Dolan to “sell the team,” ownership seems steadfast in their never-ending quest to drive the franchise into the ground.
The 40-Year Olympic Curse
Starting in 1940, the Olympics seem to have a curse that reappears every 40 years. The 1940 Olympics, set to take place in Tokyo, had to be cancelled due to World War II. Forty years later, many countries boycotted the 1980 Olympics in Moscow in response to Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan. Now, in 2020, 40 years after that Cold War incident, the Tokyo Olympics were deferred due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This pattern has many people, including Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, convinced that the world’s biggest multi-sport event is cursed.
The Billy Goat Curse
In 1945, Chicago Cubs fan William Sianis snuck his pet goat Murphy into the stands of Wrigley Field. After seven innings of successfully hiding his livestock, Sianis and Murphy were discovered and security guards removed them from the stadium. As he was dragged from the stands, Sianis shouted that the Cubs would never win a World Series. Sianis’s words carried weight, apparently, as the Cubs failed to win a world series until 2016, a full 108 years after their last title in 1908. Attempts to lift the curse included the delivery of a goat head, the enlistment of help from a Greek-Orthodox priest to douse the field in holy water, and a local restaurant encouraging Chicagoans to go vegetarian in an effort to appease Murphy the goat.