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Seven Spooky Sports Curses

Seven Spooky Sports Curses

Around Halloween (and really, any time of the year), everyone loves a spooky story – especially when there’s a possibility they might be real, or at a minimum, we can convince ourselves they are.  Right now, possibly my favorite curse ever is in the news, so let’s start with that one.

07. The Chicago Cubs and the “Goat Curse”
The curse was placed on the team in 1945 when clearly rude, goat-hating stadium security asked Billy Sianis (owner of the Billy Goat Tavern) ejected Sianis and his goat, Murphy, who allegedly had a little bit too much goaty odor, from the stadium.  (Note: I said allegedly. I’m not about to speak ill of Murphy, and I am sure he smelled just fine.) As a result, Sianis said these words that may as well have come from the Necronomicon:  “Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more.”

But you know what happened? They haven’t won since 1945, although they came close twice.  It’s now 2016… will the curse be broken? Over the years, fans have tried may strange things to break it, including allowing Sianis’ son to bring a goat on to the midfield. But they don’t think outside the box nearly enough for my tastes: I say fill the stadium with goats. (a) I am pretty sure that would please Murphy, who missed the game and (b) how awesome would it be to see a stadium full of goats watching men play baseball? I’m sorry. It’s the only way. They have to do this.
william-sianis-and-billy-goatNever anger a man who brings his goat to a baseball game.

06. Philadelphia and William Penn
Believe it or not, Philadelphia used to be known as a city full of successful sports teams… not, well, what they are now. For decades, it was just known among architects in Philadelphia would not build anything taller than Philadelphia City Hall, which has a statue of William Penn, the founder of the city, atop it. Why? They just did. The city wouldn’t even approve buildings that exceeded its height. That is, until 1987, when someone had to get all uppity and build 1 Liberty Place a whole 397 taller and wreck the city’s sports successes.

It took them until 2007 to do something about this, and upon completing the Comcast Center, builders placed a figure of William Penn on the final beam, allowing his spirit to once again guide the city’s sports teams to greatness. Or at least try. It hasn’t done much for Philadelphia fans to date, beyond the Phillies winning the World Series in 2008, leading many to believe the curse was finally broken. Unfortunately, that’s the last major win for any Philadelphia team since then. My suggestion? Make that statue of William Penn larger. Hoist one up there that towers over the city like Godzilla, if you have to. And then double it. Let everyone live in the shadow of the gigantic, sun-blocking statue of William Penn and watch the championships come rolling in.

William Penn StatueThey really needed to make a building taller than that?

05. The EA Sports/Madden Curse
Ugh! These are really great games that many players use to fill in the gaps between sports seasons, playing their own teams with graphics that have just improved with time (like every other game in the world.) But being on the cover is…. Not a good idea.  Originally just the “Madden Football Curse”. First, a little history.  Early versions of the game always featured John Madden, and it was in 1999 that EA decided they’d like to spice things up and feature a successful player from the previous season. As you can imagine, someone who is as well-known as John Madden – not only for his career, but for the video game named after him, didn’t fall in love with the idea. Being pretty mature, he didn’t go around throwing curses, but… things have not gone well for players featured on the cover. Shaun Alexander (2007) injured both his knees and wrist and never played as well as he did before – and also broke his foot in 2006 after signing the deal.  Calvin Johnson (2013) (who also had the double whammy of the Bobby Layne Detroit Lions curse) ended up playing in the Lion’s infamous 0-16 season.  I don’t think we need to get into the details of Ray Rice (2005) or Michael Vick (2004).

And the curse goes beyond the Madden game. EA released UFC 2 and the unbeaten Ronda Rousey was quickly beaten and had her jaw so badly injured she couldn’t bite into an apple for over six months, and Conor McGregor, considered one of the most dominant fighters in MMA lost his first bout.  And the story of Patrick Kane, who was caught up in some really messy personal stuff did not bode well for the Stanley Cup Champion having been featured on NHL 2016.

How to break this curse? Do I really have to tell you? If you’re offered the cover, say no. “No, thank you” if you’re feeling very polite. And don’t get enticed by a big paycheck, especially since it could end up being the last one you see in professional sports if you have to retire due to injury.
Madden 12 Cover
“Just say no” to Madden.

04. The Haunted Pfister Hotel, Milwaukee, WI
Baseball players are known for being pretty tough guys, but there’s more than one of them who stayed in this admittedly gorgeous, but old, hotel in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, only to to decide that maybe the Motel 6 built last year was a better bet next time they were in town for a game (something Justin Upton of the Braves reportedly does after being freaked out by the hotel and its lights).   The hotel, built in 1893, is believed by some to be haunted by its original owner, Charles Pfister. For some reason, when people own iconic and gorgeous buildings (it was the first “all electric and completely fireproof” hotels in Milwaukee, according to their official site. (If they could do that in 1893, why do we still have fires today?  Inquiring minds really want to know… maybe someone can get an Ouija Board and ask Mr. Pfister?)  Players really don’t like that hotel.  Giancarlo Stanton of the Florida Marlins is notorious for his hatred of staying there, and has compared it to Disney’s Haunted Mansion.   Although most players seem pretty freaked out by the hotel, and a few won’t or don’t like to stay there, at the end of the day, almost all of them report the ghost or ghosts to be pretty friendly and a quick chat with them letting them know it’s cool they stay as long as they let them sleep or relax after a game.

My solution? Seriously… just stop staying there. Surely in a city the size of Milwaukee, there’s more than one hotel that won’t leave the players dreading going there. Or find out who it is in management that’s acting like a “Scooby Doo” villain, pull off his mask, and get him hauled away, yelling about those “meddling baseball players.”

Pfesister Hotel It doesn’t look at all like the backdrop for a 1970s horror movie. Not a bit.

03. Bobby Layne, Football Quarterback and Wizard
Bobby Layne was on the Detroit Lions when they were a great team. In fact, it was the eight years he spent playing with them that led to him being in the Hall of Fame. Layne led the Lions to their first championship in almost two decades in 1952, and then, because he could, did the same thing in 1953.  That’s a rare player – and a rare team. One would imagine it came as a surprise to him when he was traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1958 (since he would have led the team to a win in 1954 as well, most likely, had he not broken his leg in three places. Ow. Ow. Ow.) Upon being traded, reportedly, Layne said the Lions would not win for “50 years” as a result of trading him (talk about being dedicated to your team…. in an odd sort of way.). Some people say this isn’t a real curse, as it is not documented in any publications from the time, yet the Lions have not won a championship since, and in 2008 (exactly 50 years later) Detroit had a record-setting 0-16 season – something that had never happened before.  Let’s just say it was probably better not to cross Bobby Layne when he was alive and I’ll say this much, just in case he’s reading this, I think you’re a great guy, Bobby, and I’d never have traded you to the Steelers.

My solution? Well, he gave the curse an expiration date, so technically, the Lions aren’t actually cursed by Mr. Layne any longer, but they still haven’t won any Super Bowls to date. Maybe they should up their game.

Bobby LayneThat’s his throwing arm… and his cursing arm.

02. The Haunted Toronto Hockey Hall of Fame
Who knew? The Hockey Hall of Fame is not only considered haunted… but it’s haunted by a Canadian ghost. I’m not sure if that’s important, but it seems like it might be.  The Hall of Fame was outgrowing its space (shared with the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame) and needed its own – and in 1990, moved to a larger building that was formerly a Bank of Montreal branch.  It should be noted that the building was considered to be haunted before the Hall of Fame moved in, with reports of people seeing a woman looking out the windows at them, and when the building was used in other ways, it was often described as “spooky” and “creepy.”  Not words you usually associate with hockey, but here we are.  The ghost is reportedly the spirit of a bank teller named Dorothy who passed away in the building in the 1950s and, it appears, didn’t want to leave. Probably because there are so many crazy rumors about how and why she died. Maybe she just wants to straighten the record. Maybe she wants the building for herself. Well, that’s too  bad, unless the hockey Hall of Fame decides this space is also too small and upgrades again.

Dorothy is pretty benign, doing typical ghost things like opening and closing windows, messing with lights, making noises, and generally creeping people out in that way ghosts like to. She seems to like messing with employees more than visitors, though there is a report of a young boy who claims to have seen someone who fits her description watching him. Hey, it could be worse – she could hide or steal the Stanley Cup. Then what?

My solution? Just don’t move to a reported/known/believed to be haunted building if/when you do upgrade, NHL. You’re more intelligent than this! (Unlike those baseball teams who keep staying in the hotel that scares the players terribly.)

The Hockey Hall of FameThere was actually doubt this building was haunted?

01. The Curse of the Bambino
Whether or not this counts is hard to say – after all, it is true the Red Sox had a ton of bad luck after the “sale” of Babe Ruth to the Yankees (yes, that’s how it was done in the early 1900s) in 1918. It seems like a strange thing to do, considering he’s one of the best players to ever grace a baseball field, but sometimes, hindsight is 50/50.  Nonetheless, with Ruth on the team, the Red Sox won five of 15 World Series, two of which he pitched.  The Yankees? Not so much. Not at all, in fact. The sale of Babe Ruth, however, seemed to turn things around and the curse was born.  The Yankees decided to play Ruth in the outfield and he began breaking batting records left and right – oh, and the Yankees started beating the Red Sox. And winning World Series’ – including three in a row in the 1920s.

The curse is generally considered to be broken in modern times, but with the intense rivalry between the Red Sox and the Yankees, whenever one beats the other, someone mentions the Curse of the Bambino. This is one piece of spooky baseball lore that will probably never go away and be kept alive as long as these two teams exist. Plus, it has a scary sounding name, so it has that going for it in terms of longevity.

My solution? Stop trading players and build your teams! Get them working together like a well-oiled machine (and this goes for all sports) and you won’t have to worry about silly things like curses that are nearly 100 years old.

Babe RuthLooks like a friendly fellow. And he didn’t even curse anyone!

Do you know any great spooky sports legends? Do you think there’s any truth to these at all? Have you experienced any of them? Let me know at blog@chalktalksports.com – I would love to hear your stories and thoughts!

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