How's a team supposed to win a game with all these dark, otherworldly forces at work?
Pittsburgh fans consider themselves cursed due to the Steel City warriors' tendency to drop off at the end of a season. This curse has no name, and no real validation to back it up outside of sheer circumstance, but fans around the Steelers camp affectionately call it the Pittsburgh Curse and believe in it mightily.
The Atlanta Falcons actually suffered their curse last year, when they ran afoul of the Madden Curse, a curse supposedly targeting the athlete who makes the cover of each year's Madden video game (last year's visage was that of QB Michael Vick, who broke his leg before the season even began. He's come back to strong numbers since then, but Atlanta fans still insist last year's Madden Curse held eerily true.
Philadelphia, whose Eagles have botched three straight playoff series, considers themselves part of the Philadelphia Curse (see Pittsburgh Curse), which they claim has also affected the Flyers, 76'ers, Phillies, racehorse Smarty Jones, and presumably Rocky Balboa.
The nation has gone curse-crazy since the well-publicized breaking of the Curse of the Bambino, which purportedly began when the Boston Red Sox traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees and ended, we believe, this year when the Sox won the championship. This curse is not to be confused with the Curse of the Goat, suffered by fans of the Chicago Cubs, and which is said to have begun when Greek tavern-owner William Sianis brought his pet billy goat to a game at Wrigley Field and was subsequently ejected, proclaiming the hapless Cubs would never again win a pennant or championship. They still haven't.
One might account for the current rash of curses as sheer rationalization. If we can't get over a specific hump, there must be a reason why. In the current American ethos, nothing's our fault. Your child isn't learning as he or she should? There must be a physiological reason why. Co-worker went and shot up the joint? Video games. We have to point a finger -- and if we can't accuse some deep-seeded psychological influence on our favorite athletes which leads to perpetual losing, why not point it at the skies? Something greater must be keeping us down. It's Clash of the Titans, and the world is just moving the way Sir Laurence Olivier decides.
Or perhaps feeling cursed is just a way of coping with the things we can't control. In this tempestuous day and age, it's just not enough for a team to simply win. Anyone can win a game. A team also has to overthrow a deep, nefarious scourge, freeing themselves, their franchises, and their legions of fans from long-time suffering. Maybe it's the feeling of validation a fan base receives after years of heartbreak, the mental removal of the world from their shoulders -- at least until next year. It transforms mere mortal athletes into evil-vanquishing conquerors. Sure, that guy was a great pitcher before, but now he's the Highlander. And isn't overcoming a supernatural demon a little more impressive than just pitching six good innings?
Sportsfans have long leaned on the crutch of fandom to deal with the frustrations of their own lives, finding solace in the victories of those they admire, celebrating the accolades of great athletes as if they themselves were on the team. Perhaps in these trying times, we need a little something extra -- the sheer intimidation of beating that undefeated team just isn't enough anymore. Not only does a challenger have to defeat that team, but if they beat that team and banish a plague from the land, we'll all sleep a little more soundly that night.
With so many evils tormenting the world right now, isn't it nice to think that we can take a few of them down with a well-placed touchdown? Overcoming a curse, even a self-inflicted or exaggerated one, gives us all a reason to think that evil can't touch us. We'll all walk a little taller as a result. Maybe we'll feel like the higher powers favor us a little more. And maybe we'll think, just for a short time, that the universe isn't completely against us -- and that with a little strength and a little luck, we can change the trajectory of the cosmos. It means defeat is not inevitable. It means we don't have to live with pessimism and disappointment any longer. We'll wake up tomorrow to a brand new day. We've achieved something greater. And all is right with the world again.
When you think about it like that, a curse doesn't sound so bad.
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