Graphic by Madeline Woods

Sports curses may be a blessing in disguise

Breaking curses might result in a brief moment of joy for fans, but after that instant of catharsis is over, then what?

Picture: it’s the seventies. The weather is in the seventies as well, balmy. A cluster of people, raving, surround a piece of turf. All of their eyes are focused on one spectacle.

A clock stands as the monumental authority, and it is minutes to midnight. Faith, hope and love mingle with rage, anguish and malice. One of the faces in the crowd turns to a grouping of many others and says, “Some curse, huh?!” The others cry out in unison.

A religious rite would be an apt description for this event. In many ways, the ritual, practice and language revolving around sport is devout. With all of the religious imagery, the mystic superstition also happened to sneak in there somewhere.

Curses of all kinds are given credit for the failures of many sports teams. The Arizona Cardinals have not won a championship since 1947, a drought attributed to the 1925 NFL championship in which the Pottsville Maroon was stripped of its title before seeing it awarded to Arizona. They now have the longest championship drought in NFL history, and according to those living in Pottsville, it won’t be going away.

Then there is the whole city of Cleveland, which bore a curse until 2016 when the Cavaliers won the NBA championship. In the same year was the breaking of the Billy-Goat curse in Chicago with the Cubs winning the World Series. How incredible is that? The elation after decades of sports failure must have been immense!

And then the days after: what happens then? The precipice had been reached. The mountain conquered. The anxiety, anguish and rage of paucity has passed and the hunger for a championship sated.

The very thing that had brought all of those fans together, to rejoice, to examine, to strategize and to sob, was gone. There is no deflection to “the curse.” Afterward, there is only mediocrity. None of the fans will get to celebrate another such feat in their lifetime as breaking a nearly 100-year-old curse.

In many ways, a sports curse is in fact a blessing. Not only are the players, coaches and fans fighting against the physical forces of opponents, but they are battling supernatural forces — forces beyond all of our understanding. The immensity of such a cause creates a drive beyond that which one playing for a paycheck could possibly conjure.

This leaves us with an interesting conundrum: these curses bring unity and passion, and the brevity of ending a curse, along with the infrequency of such an act, makes breaking curses in many ways a detrimental event. Teams often carry curses so long that it becomes a part of the identity of the city and the team. This may not be a good trait to have a part of one’s identity, but many teams, after winning a championship, drop off again. They’ve done it. There is no further drive, and they lose an essential sense of themselves.

No longer do teams that break curses garner the hype of having a huge losing streak. They lose publicity and excitement that accompanies. The whole country often will gather around a team with a curse, such as when the Cubs went to the World Series in 2016. Afterward, no one seems to care. That’s why next time you pray for a curse to be broken, think about the consequences of the suggestion. A broken curse might actually be the true curse.

Post Author: Thomas von Borstel