Photo by Matt Slocum/AP
When the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians took the field for the 2016 World Series, the matchup featured more than a mere athletic contest. The 112th edition of the Fall Classic showcased a duel between two curses. Or rather, it featured a battle of two teams that are reportedly cursed, and have been for more than five decades.
On the Chicago side, the Cubs were fighting the Curse of the Billy Goat, which was infamously placed on the franchise during the 1945 World Series. During Game 4 of that series, a certain Chicago fan sat in the bleachers at Wrigley Field with his pet goat beside him. After being asked to remove this particularly smelly goat from the stadium, the spurned fan declared that the Cubs would never again win a World Series, a prediction that has proved to be prophetic.
In the Cleveland camp, the Indians were going toe to toe with the curse of Rocky Colavito, which has followed the club since 1960 when the team inexplicably traded its star outfielder. As an apparent punishment from the baseball gods for such a foolish managerial decision, the Indians finished no better than 11 games out of first place in every one of the next 37 seasons. They have yet to win a championship.
The interesting thing about such a matchup is that only one curse can live on. The other will be lost in the fray, as every series must have a winner. The Indians’ curse proved to be the more unbreakable hex as the Cubs won.
The 2016 World Series is the most recent of several long-standing curses to be reversed.
In 2004, the Boston Red Sox defeated the St. Louis Cardinals, which lifted the 86-season-long Curse of the Bambino. Not long after their 1918 championship season, the owner of the Red Sox sold a promising young player named Babe Ruth to the not-yet-rival New York Yankees. Babe Ruth went on to stardom, the Yankees transformed into a baseball superpower and the Red Sox suffered through 86 years of irrelevance.
The next broken curse occurred in 2010 when the San Francisco Giants won their first championship since they were jinxed following the 1957 season. A plaque honoring a WWI veteran was lost from the Giants’ stadium in the wake of the final game of their 1957 title season. The Giants were said to be cursed until the plaque was restored to the ballpark. The monument was replaced in 2006 and during the eight years following, the Giants would win three World Series titles.
Mediocrity and grueling championship droughts typically don’t increase team following, but when those lean years are attributed to superstition, they can serve to unite a fan base and enhance the experience of fandom. Pre-game rituals, lucky hats and dozens of other superstitions provide fans with a feeling of contribution. To be a part of something larger than ourselves is the whole reason for being a fan. Lifting a curse makes a championship immeasurably sweeter.