The Chicago Cubs 8-7 victory over the Cleveland Indians last week was not only dramatic in purely sporting terms, not least given that the Cubs stormed back from a 3-1 World Series deficit to clinch the Championship.
It also ended the small matter of the Cubs’ 108 year wait for the World Series, a period of time during which, as one journalist has noted, eighteen different US presidents have been sworn in and Halley’s Comet has, twice, passed the Earth.
Some may say that such a long wait will have made the victory all the more satisfying for Cubs fans. But let’s not forget that such a lengthy wait inevitably entails a considerable amount of suffering and disappointment, not to mention thwarted dreams, along the way. And it is in homage to those long-suffering fans, whom can be found across a wide spectrum of sports, that Sports Shorts takes a quick look at three other notable sporting droughts. Like the supposed Curse of the Billy Goat, which is said to have contributed to the Cubs’ title drought, these tales of woe have also been attributed to what could be one of the trickiest opponents to face: the infamous sporting “curse”:
1. American football – following the Cubs’ success, the National Football League (“NFL”) franchise, the Arizona Cardinals, can now lay claim to the dubious honour of holding the longest championship drought in North American professional sports. And some believe the Cardinals are still suffering the consequences of upsetting the residents of Pottsville, Pennsylvania back in 1925. Pottsville was once home to a formidable football team named the Pottsville Maroons, who dominated the 1925 championship in their inaugural season in what was then the fledgling NFL. However, the Maroons were suspended and removed from the NFL after playing what was deemed to be an unauthorised exhibition game in Philadelphia, thereby violating the territorial rights of the local side, the Frankford Yellow Jackets. As a consequence, the 1925 championship was instead awarded to the (then) Chicago Cardinals.
A curse was supposedly cast upon the Cardinals (now based in Arizona) after its owners began to claim the 1925 championship for their own. This curse will supposedly only be lifted, thereby allowing Arizona Cardinals to once again become NFL champions, once the 1925 championship has been returned to Pottsville.
Following the Cubs’ success, some Cardinal’s fans might feel there is some merit in healing old wounds with the residents of Pottsville…
2. Soccer – the Socceroos (AKA the Australian national soccer team) failed to qualify for seven FIFA World Cups between 1970 and 2006. The reason for their failure to attend FIFA’s favourite jamboree for over three decades? Voodoo. Allegedly. The story goes that, before a 1970 World Cup qualifier in Mozambique, the Socceroos enlisted the services of a local witch doctor in order to place a curse on their opponents. Having defeated Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) on African soil, the Socceroos advanced through the qualifying rounds. However, they failed to settle the witch doctor’s bill of £1,000, who duly reversed the curse in an act of retribution. Subsequently, the Socceroos’ march to the 1970 finals ended with a defeat to Israel, during which three players mysteriously fell ill during the game.
Seven doomed qualification campaigns followed, with the nadir reached during a 1997 qualifier against Iran. The Socceroos held a two goal lead but, with full time fast approaching, they somehow contrived to concede two late goals and lose out on automatic qualification. The tale of woe finally ended when they defeated Uruguay to qualify for the 2006 World Cup after a tense penalty shoot-out. And what lifted the alleged curse? After defeating Uruguay, some Australians credited the efforts of comedian John Safran, who have previously travelled to Mozambique in search of the witch doctor in question. Having learned that the man in question had since died, Safran was not deterred and found another “practitioner” who was more than happy to revisit the same stadium and “channel” his predecessor.
Given the subsequent penalty shoot-out victory against Uruguay, it can only be assumed that Safran paid the invoice on time.
3. Gaelic football – County Mayo have not won an All-Ireland Senior Football Title since 1951, despite reaching the final nine times since 1989. County Mayo fans will need no reminding that their side suffered its most recent defeat in October’s final, which, to add to their anguish, had gone to a replay. The source of the curse? Legend has it that, on travelling home to County Mayo after a game in Dublin in 1951, the Mayo team passed a funeral in the town of Foxford. However, the County Mayo team, allegedly, failed to stop and pay their respects to the funeral cortege. For those who believe in the curse, the upshot has been that, ever since, a pall has been cast over County Mayo’s title ambitions, with the curse preventing them winning the All-Ireland Championship until all remaining members of the 1951 team have died.
Now that fans of the Chicago Cubs have finally been put out their misery, fans of County Mayo and the Cardinals will no doubt hope that it is now their team’s turn to end their respective waits for championship glory and finally put to bed any further talk of malevolent curses, whether they believe in them or not.