If you’re not one for superstitious stuff, I’m gonna have to go ahead and tell you to get the hell out of here right now. You even looking at this story right now—with your blasphemous, non-believing eyes—is potentially bringing me (and de facto, all the teams I love) bad luck. Shoo! Shoo! I’ll wait. OK, fellas, now that those people are gone, let’s talk shop: Sports curses. No matter what sport you follow or team you love, we’ve all heard at least one—some seemingly crazy-but-somehow-very-real jinx someone somewhere at some point placed on a team in order to bring them great misfortune. We hate ’em, we can’t explain ’em, but if we know anything, it’s that they’re very real. Here are seven of the worst.
1. The Wicked Witch Doctor: In 1970, the Australian National Football Association Team was scheduled to play Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) in the Mexico World Cup Qualifiers. In order to ensure a swift victory, the Australian national team consulted with a legitimate witch doctor. The witch doctor cursed the opposition, and the Australians wound up defeating Rhodesia 3-1 in the match. However, after the Australians failed to pay the 1,000-pound fee for the witch doctor’s services, the powerful witch doctor cursed them. For 32 years, the Australian team failed to qualify for a World Cup, until 2004, the curse was allegedly lifted by Australian radio personality John Safran. The Australian team has qualified for every World Cup since Safran’s attempt.
2. The Curse of the Billy Goat—Chicago Cubs: In 1945, a Chicago Cubs fan and Billy Goat Tavern owner Bill Sianis wanted to attend a game with his pet goat, but was forced to leave after the smell of his goat offended other fans. Pissed about how things went down, Sianis allegedly cursed the Cubs before saying, “Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more.” And so they didn’t. In fact, not only did the clubs not win that World Series against the Detroit Tigers, but they didn’t win another World Series championship until last year, against the Indians. What makes this curse a little more interesting is that the Cubs didn’t even qualify for another World Series again until they beat the Dodgers 5-0 in game 6 of the 2016 NL Championship Series to win the pennant—the 46th anniversary of Billy Sianis’ death.
3. The Madden Curse: The Madden football game series has been a staple of the EA Sports catalogue since its first release in 1988, and up until 1998, John Madden appeared on every single edition of the game. In 1999, however—against Madden’s wishes—EA decided to start placing prominent players on the cover instead. Over the years, fans have noticed that players featured on the Madden cover have been prone to experiencing a decline in performance. It’s so well known at this point that bookies will even use it to create odds on how likely a player is to get injured, based solely on their cover appearance. EA even announced plans at some point to develop a movie based on the curse, but later axed the idea for unknown reasons.
4. The Curse of Bobby Layne: Bobby Layne was a quarterback (and kicker) for the Detroit Lions from 1950 to 1958, where he led the team to three NFL championships, played in four Pro Bowls, made first team All-Pro two times and led the league in over a dozen single-season stats at various times. But in 1958, Layne was traded to the Steelers against his will, allegedly proclaiming that the Lions wouldn’t win for 50 years. In those 50 years, the Lions have accumulated the worst winning percentage of any other NFL team, and are still only one of two teams in the entire NFL that haven’t made a super bowl appearance.
5. The Curse of Billy Penn: When the construction of One Liberty Place was finally finished in 1987, everyone in all of Philadelphia thought it was a thing of beauty. However, it violated an age-old “gentlemen’s agreement” in the city that no building would eclipse the statue of city founder William Penn, which stood atop Philadelphia’s City Hall. Philadelphia’s sports teams had experienced a bout of success throughout the early ’80s, with teams winning World Series’, NL pennants, NHL Stanley Cups, making Super Bowl appearances, and even making it to an NBA final or two. But once One Liberty Place was completed and Billy Penn’s statue was no longer the city’s tallest point, that all went downhill. Coincidental? Maybe. But when the city completed construction on the new largest building in 2007, they placed a small statuette of Billy Penn on the final beam. The Phillies won the World Series the very next year. Hm…
6. The Curse of the Bambino: The indisputably most famous sports franchise curse of all time, The Curse of the Bambimo, came in the downtime of the 1919-1920 season, when the Boston Red Sox traded legendary Babe Ruth, known as The Bambino, to the New York Yankees. As legend has it, when Ruth left, his mojo went with him. After getting traded to the Yankees, they went on to become one of the greatest sports franchises in history and, in his 15 years with the team, they won four World Series titles and seven AL championships. The Red Sox, however, suffered through 86 years of bad luck.
7. The Sports Illustrated Cover Curse: In a nutshell, people who appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated tend to suffer some kind of loss or misfortune. Like, it’s a thing. So pervasive a thing it is that Sports Illustrated themselves even highlight some of the uncanny events from time to time. Everything from Conor McGregor’s March 2016 loss to Nate Diaz after appearing on the February 2016 cover, to Serena Williams September 11th loss to Roberta Vinci in the U.S. Open semifinals after appearing on the August 2015 cover, to the Kentucky Wildcats losing their 40-0 streak to Wisconsin on April 4th, 2015, after they were the cover story in the April 2015 issue that hit newsstands just a couple days earlier. Of course, these are only recent examples of the curse, which dates back years.
8. The Curse of the Honey Bears: Chicago Bears fans are cringing right now. After Bears owner George Halas passed away in 1983, his daughter, Virginia, took command of the team. One of the first changes she made was to get rid of the Bears’ cheering team, affectionately known as the Honey Bears, because she found the squad to be to be inappropriate and distasteful. Since their dismissal—and despite several attempts throughout the years to bring them back—the Bears have remained ring-less. Whether it’s the result of the Honey Bears being let go, or the fact that the Bears just suck (Hah! Take that, nerds!), fans jump at the opportunity to blame it on the former.