With the Golden State Warriors riding into the NBA finals on the back of a toaster, we look back at some other examples of enchanted curio that crippled teams in the past. Because sport is stupid.
The annals of sports history are merely a back shed, lazily packed with thousands of meaningless objects treasured once, and then carelessly flung through the door. I suppose we hoard these trinkets because luck, or perceived luck and the break of the ball can be controlled by no man… That and because man turns sport into a metaphor for class struggle, equality, religious divide, proxy wars and an antidote for the crushing disappointment for their own lives, making ourselves feel better by screaming abuse at millionaires, we all end up acting like geese. Startled, unreasonable, flocking geese. This has manifested in many ways, but it is particularly the case when we lose; we search for meaning in the meaningless, we elevate the mundane, and the pile gets larger.
The newest object happens to be an implement for cooking bread, with the NBA finals shifting to abject tedium, as the two teams that everyone thought were going to be in it, are in it; the flat-earth truther-led Cleveland Cavaliers versus the team that everyone hates for being unfairly good, The Golden State Warriors.
However, earlier in the year, things were not so peachy for the Warriors, who were mired in a losing streak. The league lol’d a fearful lol, and all was right in the world. Money doesn’t buy success. That was until a fan presented Klay Thompson with a toaster for him to autograph. And the legend of the toaster was born:
However, Klay’s toaster is merely the tip of a very stupid iceberg.
You could argue that the most famous curse, the Baby Jesus of all curses, is The Curse of the Bambino, in which Bostonians blamed the selling of Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1919 for their lack of success until 2004, where the Red Sox nation plucked every alt-religious nutcase in Massachusetts to banish the ghoul, decided to spelunk for a soggy piano solely based on a loose anecdote (spoiler: there was no piano) and even stooped the level of digging up the fucking decaying body of George and reburying it back home to Boston, all in order to lift the curse. He was from Baltimore. It didn’t work. They fondled a fat man’s bones for nothing. Footnote, the Red Sox eventually won the World Series in 2004, easily sweeping the St Louis Cardinals. So, therefore, the better team won, right? Seems perfectly normal? Well, no. According to curse theorists, it was the last out of the ’04 series that broke the curse, not the end of the game, by…you know…the rules, as the last man out was Édgar Rentería, who wore #3 on his uniform. Guess who else wore that number?
Certainly, baseball seems to be a treasure trove of these supposed curses, which I suppose is a byproduct of inventing a game in 1870, barely changing it since, and measuring everyone new against dead people. (“You’ll never be as good as that racist from Georgia.”) It’s a strange land, subject to some kind of voodoo. Nothing proved, nothing written down. It exists only if you believe it. Baseball’s other storied franchise of failure, the Chicago Cubs, had their own wonky curse to explain, squarely placing the blame on a threat made by a disgruntled goat owner, who was kicked out of the stadium in 1945, for…you know, bringing a goat to a fucking baseball game. William Sianis, a publican with a goat-based gimmick, both in soubriquet and establishment claimed that “dem Cubs ain’t gonna win no more”. And win they certainly didn’t. To be fair, some weird things happened to the Cubs in big moments, but I believe that a lifetime of losing made them paranoid, and thusly assume the worst, and through collective fingernail shorn, fear would become truth and thus the Billy Goat curse lives on. Chicago, like Boston, had a team, fanbase and therefore a city culture of fucking up. That permeates the players who represent all of that, and stupidity happens, because they buy into it. Trying to convince a Bostian before 2004, and a Chicagoan before 2016 that their beliefs were wrong and that the curse was stupid, would be akin to attempting to get a teenager programmed by the Taliban to trade in his RPG for a name tag at Home Depot.
The two most famous examples of this were the black cat that invaded the diamond in 1969 against the Mets, and the Bartman incident against the Marlins in 2003. The Cubs would lose both times. And thusly, Chicago lost their minds. Particular highlights of their attempt to break the curse were a butchered goat hung from the statue of legendary Cubs announcer Harry Caray, and the very public electrocution of a baseball in a restaurant named after the storied announcer and the citywide search to find and publicly drink the blood of IT rep Steve Bartman who became Public Enemy #1 for catching a ball. Sport is stupid.
Also on The Big Smoke
- The 2016 sporting curse: Finally the bride, but at what cost?
- Fandom: Screw you and the bandwagon you rode in on
- Japan’s finger licking Christmas tradition, and others across the globe
Fortunately, both the Cubs and the Red Sox have broken their curses in recent memory, which, to be honest, I believe is a bit of a bummer. It’s fun to believe that an entire city could be held hostage by the spirit of an embittered man who had too many spirits, instead of addressing the real issue: that Boston is a dreary place, founded by religious zealots with a penchant for sadomasochism who are only truly happy when they’re unhappy.
Either or, those two losers will be missed.
Over in Japan, the bastion of baseball lunacy, a team called the Hanshin Tigers, were punished by none other than the ghost of everyone’s favourite pseudo-militaristic, mysterious chicken peddler, Colonel Harlan Sanders. Worthy to note that this incident happened in 1985, so the Colonel had been embalmed in his secret herbs and spices for a good five years, but nevertheless, the curse was concrete after some rambunctious fans of the Tigers hurled a statue of the Kentuckian into the Dotonbori River. Now desecrating the graven image of the man himself is heresy in the highest, especially in Japan, where the Colonel is essentially Santa Claus/Jesus, so the idea of the curse quickly took root. Talk shit, get banged.
As a result, the Tigers haven’t won a championship since 1985. However, in 2003 they swept to the Central League and minds were lost, so much so that KFC branches throughout Osaka and Kyoto performed a surreal pilgrimage of moving the images of their god into collective storerooms all over Kansai. The Tigers lost the championship. The curse of the colonel was now a national problem which resulted, and I say this without a morsel of hyperbole, in the greatest underwater dredging operation since the Titanic. In 2009, divers found something horrible. A drumstick of national curio. Minus his glasses and left hand, the Colonel rose once more, eventually returning to work outside the branch near the Hanshin Tiger’s home stadium.
They are yet to win another championship.
The footballing world also has its share of moronic intrigue, although most of it circles around the vestiges of imperialistic racism, blaming the Gypos for their lack of success. I’m looking at your Derby and Birmingham. However, I’d like to close on something else.
Remember this face, for this man wears the face of death:
Unfortunately, the above photo also proves that peroxide exists in the afterlife. The reaper of souls above is Welsh footballer Aaron Ramsey, who shirks the traditional scythe in favour of ball meeting net. According to the Internet, so you know it’s entirely legit, every time Ramsey strikes, death soon comes to someone notable. Annoyingly, the dates line up.
On May 1, 2011, Ramsey scored against Manchester United. The next day, this happened:
Now, there’s a theory as to why he is granted the powers of mortis, a theory which I’ve just made up, but it’s entirely legit, and this piece won’t win a Walkley, so fuck it.
Back in the juvenile spring of his career, the young Ramsey was felled by a butcher of a man called Ryan Shawcross. Due to the leg which was now broken (Google it), his career skipped summer, gave autumn a miss, and marched headlong into the icy winds of winter. Now, somewhere on a darkened treatment table in North London, perhaps a foolish young man, fearing his greatest gift (and indeed meal ticket) would be cruelly snatched from him, offered a silent vow to himself, made in haste, low enough to not escape his ears, yet heard it was…and perhaps he was visited by a spectral figure, who offered Ramsey the chance at a full recovery at the minor cost of a slight caveat:
He would play for his country, but he would do the bidding of the man downstairs.
I mean the devil.