We all love a good urban legend and the sporting world is no different. There are hundreds of curses and myths that are said to affect players, teams and even entire sports. Today, I would like to share five of them with you.
- The Madden Curse
In 1999, Electronic Arts chose San Francisco 49ers running back Garrison Hearst to appear on the cover of their American Football game Madden NFL. Soon after appearing on the game’s cover, Hearst broke his ankle and was ruled out for two seasons. Subsequently, every player featured on the cover of an EA American Football game has gone on to perform poor during the season. Notable examples include Dante Culpepper, quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings, who played an average season in 2001 and then after appearing on the 2002 Madden cover, threw 23 interceptions, set a new record for fumbles and saw his team fail to reach the players and Brett Favre, who came out of retirement after appearing on the 2009 cover, and proceeded to slowly slip in performance for the New York Jets, going from throwing six touchdowns in week four to throwing two touchdowns in the last five games combined. Favre was also plagued by a sexual harassment scandal. This ‘curse’ is so widespread that fans will often object to having their favourite player feature on the cover, for fear it will compromise their performance.
- The Redskin Rule
If you’re an activist, you may oppose the Redskins due to their name. If you’re a Redskins fan, you may oppose Dan Snyder. If you’re the sitting President and you’re running for a second term, you may be hoping the Redskins win in the week before Election Day. A journalist writing an article in 2000 discovered that, at that point in time, the result of the Redskins game prior to Election Day correlated with whether the incumbent party won or lost the election. This happened every four years since 1936. There have only been three exceptions- 1932, 2004 and 2012. As a psychology student, I was intrigued and ran the data the through a stats program, the correlation stands at .816, which is a very strong correlation. So to the Democrats, let’s hope the Redskins have a good start to next year’s season.
- The Red Menace
I bet the sports fans reading this are racking their brains for a Communism related sports story but I am talking about the biological red menace- periods. The debate as to whether periods affect the performance of female athletes. Some, such as British runner Jessica Judd, argue that it hinders their performance, with Judd seeing a 15 second difference in her performances in two races a week apart while tennis player Heather Watson blamed her period for her first round exit from the Australian Open earlier this year. On the other hand, marathon runner Paula Radcliffe set a world record at the 2002 Chicago marathon while on her period. Many female athletes have called for more research into the matter because as it stands, there is no clear, definitive answer.
- Derby County’s trophy denial
The story goes that after being forced to leave their homes in 1895 so that Derby County FC could renovate the Baseball Ground to become their new football stadium, a group of Romani Gypsies cursed the club, stating that Derby County would never win the FA Cup. Between 1896 (the year after the curse had been placed) and 1903, Derby reached three FA Cup finals, losing all of them. They would go onto proceed no further than the semi-finals until during the 1946 FA Cup final against Charlton Athletic, the ball burst. Many diehard Derby fans saw this as the lifting of the Romani curse. The game remained goalless until the 85th minute and after that, the game saw 5 goals in about 20 minutes. Derby came out the victors, 4-1 and that was the end of the curse. Ironically, since that day, Derby have never reached another FA Cup final and only reached the semi-finals once.
- The city of Buffalo
It’s interesting to find a sporting curse inflicted on an entire city. Buffalo, New York is home to an NFL team (the Buffalo Bills), an NHL team (the Buffalo Sabres) as well as minor league baseball, soccer and basketball teams. However, the two national teams that represent Buffalo have not won a trophy since 1965 and even that is disputed due to the merger of the AFL and NFL soon after the Bills had won the AFL Championship. Fodder for the curse comes from the Buffalo Bills four consecutive Super Bowl losses in the early 90s and the Sabres inability to win the Stanley Cup…ever. The earliest mention of a curse in Buffalo can be found in 1921, after the Buffalo All-Americans, the city’s first NFL team, lost to the Chicago Staleys (now the Bears) on a tie-break game (which the All-Americans weren’t expected as they believed that the second game against the Staleys had been an exhibition match). Some may believe that Buffalo is cursed; some may put this down to the people of Buffalo scrambling for an excuse as to why their teams aren’t very good- I’ll let you make up your mind.