Even if their local team is terrible, it is up to fans to decide whether they want the idea of a hex hanging over their city
In honor of southern-friend warlock Skip Baylesss final day as co-host of ESPNs First Take, allow me to begin this column with a bold pronouncement with no basis in quantifiable fact: all sports curses are nonsense.
Apologies to towns like Buffalo or Milwaukee, but there is no supernatural hex hovering over your municipality. Even if God does exist, she has better things to do than rain down further misery on places where a raucous Saturday night almost always includes some exotic variety of gravy. Even the vaunted Lil B curse is dubious. After all, if Lil B really held that much power, wouldnt he curse Donald Trump or Isis? Could he curse the scientific phenomenon of global warming or does the power bestowed on him by the Based God only extend to basketball?
Curses are not real, and function similarly to any outrageous belief system known to man. They give meaning and structure to humdrum misery. Saying Cleveland was cursed to never win a title is akin to claiming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was cursed to be a colossal piece of crap. No, that movie sucked because someone thought it would be a good idea for Batman and Superman to fight a bit of CGI mucus with a mouth. 2016 may finally be the year sports fans across the globe let go of these childish superstitions for good.
We dont even have any good curses left to prop up this nonsense. Cleveland have their NBA championship. The Chicago Cubs are far and away the best team in Major League Baseball, and are the bettors favorites to win the World Series. Leicester City broke the big-money football hegemony in England to win the Premier League title. The Boston Red Sox broke the so-called Curse of the Bambino almost 12 years ago. The New York Times ran a piece on Monday that valiantly attempted to pinpoint the next great sports curse, but I have to say that the list left me wanting.
Most of the cities in contention won major sports championships in the 1990s. Is Atlanta really suffering since the Braves won the World Series in 1995? Does Atlanta even remember it has a baseball team? Is Toronto really cursed? Apparently, the city has won four Grey Cups in the Canadian Football League since 1993. That might not matter to me, but it matters in Toronto, so how miserable can they really be? Somehow, Nashville ended up on this list. How can you have any sort of sports-related trauma when your best, most popular team is an expansion NHL franchise
The idea of these curses took hold because of tradition, and because sports fans passed their pain on to their offspring. Your parents told you about the curse. Your grandparents told you. If youre exceedingly lucky, your great-grandparents told you. The sports media, always eager for a snappy angle, perpetuated the idea that demons were responsible for your favorite teams late season collapse rather than bad management, injuries, or simply not playing as well. Plus, most of the great curse towns were economically or socially repressive places to live with atrocious weather. Does that really describe Nashville?
As the old school curses disappear, it will be natural to try to create new ones. The Times piece settles on Buffalo as the next great sports curse, but as gutting as it can be to be a Buffalo sports fan, there are only two major teams in the city the NHLs Sabres and the NFLs Bills. Both teams certainly have suffered mightily, and the kind of seeming acts of God that tripped up the Bills in the past (Scott Norwood, the Music City Miracle) add to the mystique.
But whether or not a curse perpetuates is up to the people who live in the city. Cleveland and Boston fans took a certain perverse delight in their misery. Cubs fans made futility part of their appeal. If Deadspins stellar coverage of Buffalo Bills fandom is any indication, the city of Buffalo isnt so much turning failure into a meme as it is turning the city itself into a meme. Somehow, Buffalo has transcended their pain through random acts of utter stupidity. Powerbombing your friend through a table is, I suppose, the modern iteration of ritualistically flogging yourself in order to repent for past sins. If Bills fans cant beat this alleged curse on the field, maybe they can beat it out of each other.