Smells Like Team Spirit


Anna Finley

The Buffalo Bills have had a rough few seasons

Charlie Schiavo, Sentry Staff Reporter

A curse on a sports team is a “belief among the community that the team has just been so unsuccessful for such a long time that they have been unable to [win], that there is some sort of ‘magical’ presence that is keeping them from doing well,” sophomore Jack Cline said.

On October 19, 2016, the Cleveland Indians made it to their first World Series since 1997. Three days later, the Chicago Cubs secured the other spot in MLB’s championship series, marking their first appearance since 1945. Despite Cleveland’s relatively recent appearance, the Indians have not won a championship since 1948, and, until this season, the Cubs had failed to win the title since 1908. Often regarded as the most cursed team in baseball, the Cubs finally ended the longest championship drought in sports history on November 2, 2016 by winning the World Series. However, baseball isn’t the only sport with cursed teams.

Almost all of the professional sports leagues across the world have teams or players with history that would leave even the most skeptical of sports fans scratching their heads in disbelief. From fan acts to player blunders to animal corpses, the curses that fall upon sports teams are caused by the strangest of events, and often are reversed by stranger ones.

National Football League (NFL): Buffalo Bills in the Super Bowl

It might be hard to believe for some younger NFL fans, but at one point, the Buffalo Bills were one of the most feared teams in football. From 1991 to 1994, the Bills appeared in four consecutive Super Bowls, but they lost in all four appearances, twice to the Dallas Cowboys in 1993 and 1994. This is perhaps fitting to today’s mediocre-at-best Bills who posted a 2014 record of 9 wins and 7 losses and still failed to make the playoffs.

National Hockey League (NHL): Toronto Maple Leafs

Until 2006, the Toronto Maple Leafs were the most valuable team in the NHL. After the 2004-2005 lockout caused by a dispute over salaries between the NHL and the NHL players association, the team dipped to the third most valuable team in the league. Despite their massive value, the Canadian equivalent of the Dallas Cowboys (who are often called “America’s team” due to their massive fan base and monetary value) have been the laughingstock of the National Hockey League for the past 20 years or so due to their poor performances, but the Leafs faithful believe that a curse has fallen upon their beloved franchise.

“It has been 48 years since they have won a Stanley Cup… It seems as though since that time, the few times they have come close to breaking away and making it to the Stanley Cup final, they’ve lost in such odd, unexplainable ways…. The last time they were in the Eastern Conference Finals was 2001-2002, when they lost to the Carolina Hurricanes… they had great players like Mats Sundin as their captain, so that’s probably the closest it’s been to them breaking free” Cline said.

Even though the Leafs have had a woeful recent history, a new leaf might have been turned over when the team drafted highly touted prospect Auston Matthews, “…Which presents a lot of potential,” Cline said.

Matthews’s potential certainly is great. As of November 1, 2016, he has recorded six goals and four assists in just ten career NHL games. Four of his goals came on his NHL debut. Matthews’s abilities are undoubtedly incredible, but are they enough to give the city of Toronto their first Stanley Cup since 1967?

National Basketball Association: NBA Live

Sometimes, what seems like a lifelong dream for any athlete can result in pesky and outlandish injuries. Since 1995, game developers Electronic Arts Sports (EA Sports) has marketed a line of video games called NBA Live. Almost every player to appear on the cover of the game has experienced health-related misfortunes or off-court issues during the NBA season that each edition NBA Live was released for. The first cover star of NBA Live was the great Shaquille O’Neal, who appeared on NBA Live 96 and fractured his thumb at the start of the 1995-96 season. In 2000, San Antonio Spurs center Tim Duncan was plastered on the cover of the game. He tore the lateral meniscus in his left knee, the first of many injuries in a legendary career. Washington Wizards hero-turned-zero Gilbert Arenas was put on the cover of the game in 2008, hurt his knee, and was exposed for bringing guns into the Wizards’ locker room. Any reader hoping to play in the NBA when they grow up might want to consider thinking twice about picking up the phone when EA calls them up after an incredible first season.

Major League Baseball: The Curse of the Bambino, Washington

The Cubs and the Indians aren’t the only cursed teams in Major League Baseball. One of, if not the most famous curses in all of sports history is the curse of the Bambino. It all began when the Red Sox traded an unknown player by the name of George Herman “Babe” Ruth to their hated rivals, the New York Yankees. “The Babe” went on to become one of the greatest baseball players of all time, and as for the Red Sox?

“The Red Sox went 86 years without winning the championship,” sophomore Matthew Cornfield said.

The curse of the Bambino was finally broken in 2004, when the Red Sox beat the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. Some more recent instances have suggested the beginning of a curse for a team, such as the Washington Nationals’ playoff heartbreaks that began in 2012.

“I mean, pretty much all Washington sports teams [are cursed], I wouldn’t say they’re cursed yet but it’s been a good 20 years… I think the closest team [to breaking the curse] is the Nats,” Cornfield said.

Formed in 2005 when the Montreal Expos upped sticks and moved to Washington, the Nats posted losing records every season from 2006 to 2012. Their first taste of playoff devastation came in 2012 when the Nats lost a gripping National League Division Series to the St. Louis Cardinals. The San Francisco Giants beat the Nats in 2014, and the Los Angeles Dodgers took the Nationals all the way to the last game of the NLDS before beating them in the bottom of the ninth inning.

The Nationals playoff defeats are a symbol for the entire city of Washington, DC, all of whose sports teams seem to be afflicted with a curse. Loving fans of The District’s athletic clubs will be hoping that the Nationals, the NHL’s Washington Capitals, the NBA’s Washington Wizards, the NFL’s Washington Redskins and MLS’s D.C. United can bring a trophy home sooner rather than later.

World Soccer

Soccer. Football. Calcio. Footy. Whatever you call it, “the beautiful game” has seen some bizarre things go down. One such oddity occurred in Argentina, where soccer is more than just a game for many. Racing Club, based in Buenos Aires, went 34 years without winning a title until 2014. The cause? Angry fans of Racing Club’s rivals, Independiente, buried seven dead cats under Racing’s stadium. Six of the cats were found during stadium renovations in 1997, but it wasn’t until the seventh feline was found that Racing added a title to their collection of honors.

Sports fans are certainly a superstitious bunch. Even though there is no scientific evidence of some other-worldly force or being that brings misfortune on sports franchises, some of the supposed curses upon certain sports franchises might just spark further research in the paranormal fields.