The world celebrates with the Chicago Cubs, who broke their 108-year team curse. Do you know about all 10 of these curses in sports history?
Curses and superstitions are curious parts of sports lore. Some swear by them, while others laugh them off. But if you believe in curses, the longest team curse has been broken, and five million people filled the streets of Chicago to celebrate a new era.
It happened. The Chicago Cubs finally broke a string of 108 years of heartbreak by winning the 2016 World Series. The storybook ending featured a three-game winning streak with their season on the line, and an extra-innings game seven that will go down as one of the greatest of all time. The longest title drought in major professional sports is over. The curse has been broken.
Let’s take a look at 10 legendary curses in the sports world.
The Chicago Cubs
“Talk to me about a damn goat,” tweeted lifelong Cubs fan Ali DeGray.
After their 1908 World Series win, the Cubs didn’t reach the big finale again until 1945. During game four against the Detroit Tigers, Billy Sianis, owner of the Billy Goat Tavern, arrived at Wrigley with his trusty tavern mascot. It is said that Cubs owner Philip K. Wrigley sent Sianis and his goat packing due to fans’ complaints about the odor. Legend has it that, as a result, Sianis placed a curse on the team. Fast-forward to game six of the 2003 NLCS, the Cubs were a mere five outs away from reaching the World Series for the first time since 1945 when Steve Bartman reached over the stands to catch a foul ball. According to many Cubs fans, the crucial missed out was the catalyst to their demise. The Cubs went on to lose that game and game seven. The Cubs reached the NLCS again in 2015, but it wasn’t until 2016 that the franchise completely excised their demons and broke the 108-year team curse.
The Boston Red Sox
When Babe Ruth, arguably the greatest baseball player of all time, was shipped from the Red Sox to the rival New York Yankees, it was a shock to the sports world. The 1918 Red Sox were coming off their fourth title in seven years. Feeling fairly confident, they gave up the talent of Babe Ruth to the Yankees. The Red Sox wouldn’t win another World Series until 2004. The curse of the Bambino was finally broken after 86 years in historic fashion as they became the first team to come back from a 3-0 game deficit, beating the Yankees in the ALCS and then going on to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals in the championship. Since then, the Red Sox have won championships in 2007 and 2013.
The San Francisco Giants
When fans of the New York Giants ran onto the field following the final game of the 1957 season, a plaque honoring Giants great and WWI hero Eddie Grant was lost in the commotion. Following the ’57 season, the Giants moved to San Francisco and failed to replace the plaque commemorating Grant and the New York lineage of the franchise. After the move, the Giants lost in each of their next three World Series appearances. Relenting to fan superstitions, the Giants reinstalled a replica of the plaque in 2006. The Giants went on to win their next World Series appearance in 2010. Titles have also been added in 2010 and 2012, making the Giants three-for-three since replacing the plaque. Was the team curse lifted by a plaque? The timing points to yes.
The City of Cleveland
This past summer the Cleveland Cavaliers snapped the city’s 52-year title drought with an improbable comeback over the Golden State Warriors. The Cleveland curse became prominent because of the trend for the city’s teams (Cavs, Browns, Indians) to lose significant games in heartbreaking, and often unfathomable, manners. Prior to the Cavs title, Cleveland held by far the longest combined title-less streak across all major professional sports. The curse was filled with blunders such as “The Drive,” “The Fumble,” “The Shot,” “The Move,” and “The Decision” but was ultimately broken by “The Return” of LeBron James. However, a new curse may be brewing: “The 3-1.” The Cavs famously came back from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA finals, a feat we Cleveland fans have talked about endlessly since this past summer. The Chicago Cubs then came back from their own 3-1 deficit to defeat the Cleveland Indians. Will “The 3-1” chatter doom the city of Cleveland for years to come? At the very least, Cleveland is no longer seen as “The Mistake on the Lake,” right?
The Detroit Lions
One disputed team curse is that of the Detroit Lions. When Bobby Layne was traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1958, he allegedly said the Detroit Lions wouldn’t win for 50 years. Although the statement wasn’t publicized at the time, for the next 50 years the Detroit Lions turned in the worst winning percentage in the NFL. And in the fiftieth year when the Pittsburgh Steelers won the Super Bowl in 2008, the Lions posted an 0-16 record, the first to ever claim that disastrous feat. The Steelers also happened to win their title on Ford Field, the home of the Detroit Lions. Layne’s curse on the Lions appears to have outlasted its 50-year shelf life.
The Baltimore Orioles
The Baltimore Orioles haven’t made it to a World Series since 1983. Whether they’re cursed is questionable, but like the Cubs they suffered from fan interference. In game one of the 1996 ALDS, Jeffrey Maier reached over the stands and pulled in a Derek Jeter fly ball. Instead of calling fan interference, the play was ruled a home run. The Orioles would go on to lose the series, and the Yankees would finish out October with another World Series title. Since then, a number of misfortunes have been attributed to their team curse. Rafael Palmeiro, Orioles slugger at the time, later admitted to PED use. In 2005 the Orioles suffered the worst MLB midseason collapse ever, and in 2012 the Orioles were again stymied by the Yankees in the ALDS. It doesn’t help that the Orioles are trying to overcome their apparent team curse while playing in the same division as the Yankees and the Red Sox.
The Chicago Bears
When Chicago Bears owner George Halas passed away in 1983, his daughter Virginia Halas took over the team. Since 1977 the Bears had a cheerleading squad: the Honey Bears. Virginia felt the squad was distasteful. In the final year of the Honey Bears contract, the Bears won the Super Bowl. Halas let the Honey Bears go, not renewing their contracts, and the Bears have remained title-less since that day. Efforts to bring back the Honey Bears have failed, and the closest the Bears came to winning a Super Bowl since was a heartbreaking loss to the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLI. The team curse on the Chicago Bears will likely be linked to the Honey Bears until the Bears win again without their presence.
The Madden Video Game Cover
With the 1999 iteration of Madden, Electronic Arts started featuring NFL stars on the cover of their massively popular video game. Garrison Hearst was the first to have the honor as a Madden cover athlete, and he soon broke his ankle. In 1999, Barry Sanders abruptly retired after being named as the cover athlete for Madden 2000. Eddie George, the 2001 choice, lost hold of a pass that ended up costing the Titans their season. George’s numbers would decline across his final four NFL seasons. Of the 19 cover athletes since the new system started, 17 of them have either seen declines in production or faced injuries. Is the Madden curse real? The numbers don’t seem to lie. While this isn’t a team curse, the negatively affected key player certainly hurts the team as a whole.
Temporarily Broken Curses
The Arizona Cardinals
In 1925 the best two teams in football were the Chicago Cardinals and the Pottsville Maroons. Leading up to the championship, team owner John Striegel changed the venue of one of the games without the NFL commissioner’s approval. Striegel claimed to have been given verbal approval, but the Maroons were suspended from the league, paving the way for the Chicago Cardinals to win the title. The people of Pottsville, Pennsylvania, have allegedly cursed the franchise (now the Arizona Cardinals) and will not lift the curse until the championship is given to the now-defunct Maroons. Although the Cardinals won a title in 1947, they haven’t won anything since. The Arizona Cardinals currently hold the most losses in the history of the NFL. Is the team cursed? Ask the citizens of Pottsville.
The Toronto Maple Leafs
In 1951, Bill Barilko lifted the Leafs to a Stanley Cup with his goal in overtime against the Montreal Canadiens. Barilko tragically perished in a plane crash that off-season. For the next 11 years, the Leafs went without a championship. Barilko’s body wasn’t recovered until 1962, the same year the Leafs won their next championship. The team curse was overcome when Barilko’s body was discovered, but after riding that wave for wins in the following two Stanley Cups, the Leafs haven’t won since. They own the longest active Stanley Cup drought.
What sports curses would you add to the list?