#3. Cleveland and the Curse of Jim Brown
So your team is called the Browns, and you have the best player in the game and he also happens to be named Brown. Holy crap, the posters design themselves! What could go wrong?
Well for almost a decade, nothing at all. Jim Brown tore up the field and hapless tacklers alike, easily becoming the NFL's leading rusher for each one of his nine seasons, earning three NFL MVP awards during his career, and helping the Cleveland Browns to a championship in 1964. And oh, by the way, even with his truncated nine-year career, and even though the NFL played a shorter season back then, Brown still dominates the Browns team rushing records more than four decades later.
But like many athletes, Jim Brown fancied himself as an actor. And he managed to land a role in the upcoming film The Dirty Dozen, no doubt based purely on his acting ability and having nothing to do with being the biggest football star in the country.
While filming during the 1965 off-season, Art Modell, the owner of the Browns demanded that Jim drop everything, cancel shooting and report to training camp to prepare for the upcoming season. Jim responded by one-upping Modell's dick move with an even better dick move, by retiring from professional football completely, at the prime of his career, inciting a hex on the names Cleveland and Browns in the process.
These days Cleveland has the dubious honor of being called the "most tortured sports city" in the United States, due to championship droughts from all of their teams. But the Browns seem to have gotten the worst of it. They haven't won or even appeared in another championship game since their last win in 1964 with Jim Brown, and worse, have only managed to win six playoff games in 44 years.
Still Not Convinced?
In 1996, the Cleveland Browns franchise moved to Baltimore, but through an agreement with the NFL were only permitted to take the current players and staff to create an entirely new team (the Baltimore Ravens). In other words, the name "Browns" didn't go with them. A new replacement Cleveland Browns team would then be created in Cleveland and would retain the Browns' name, colors, history, records, awards, archives and even curses.
The newly minted Baltimore Ravens, free from the city and the "Browns" name, immediately won a Super Bowl in 2000. On the other hand, last year the Browns went 4-12.
And let's not forget that Jim Brown blazed a path for athletes to star in action movies to this day, to the benefit of all.
OK, maybe not.
#2. The Australian Soccer Team and the Witch Doctor Curse
On the one hand, many of you don't care about soccer. On the other, this might be the most awesome of all the world's sports curses.
So the Australian national team that competes in the FIFA World Cup every four years is called The Socceroos (an odd nickname, considering the rest of the world, including Australia, calls the sport "football"). They started participating in the World Cup in 1966, but failed to qualify that year. Becoming frustrated and impatient, members of the Socceroos took advantage of the African setting of the 1970 Cup qualifiers and enlisted the help of a real live, local, Voodoo witch doctor, complete with novelty-sized bone nose ring.
According to one player's autobiography, after reaching an agreement with the team, the witch doctor set about applying a curse on any team that would oppose the Socceroos. He did this by burying bones near each goal-post on the field that was to be used, and performed the spell or whatever. It worked; the Socceroos then subsequently beat their first opponent, Rhodesia, to advance further into the qualifying rounds and celebrated the power of the curse.
But then the witch doctor, satisfied with his work, delivered the bill for his services; a cool £1,000. Not having their WAM (Walking Around Money) with them, the players were unable to pay the bill, so the witch doctor justifiably reversed the hex onto the Socceroos themselves and bid them adieu.
No longer having the curse working for them, the Socceroos lost to Israel--mostly due to three players suddenly falling ill during the match. Since the witch doctor incident in 1970 and being unable to score even one goal in the 1974 World Cup campaign, the Australian national team has failed to qualify for the subsequent seven World Cup tournaments spanning 32 years.
The curse is thought to have most obviously manifested during the 1998 Cup qualifiers when the Roos held a two-goal lead over Iran in the final minutes of the game, and looked sure to qualify for the first time in 24 years. However, Iran quickly scored two goals of their own to force a draw, thus knocking the Socceroos out of their sure spot in the tournament and into their usual spot on the sidelines.
Still Not Convinced?
In 2004, Australian documentarian and comedian John Safran read Johnny Warren's aforementioned autobiography that described the witch doctor's hex firsthand and was inspired to travel to Africa to do a story about it for his TV show.
Witch doctor. Or maybe Screwface, from Marked for Death. Whatever.
Upon arriving, he found that the original witch doctor who had placed the curse was dead, but was able to enlist another who promised he could reverse the old jinx completely. He did so by going to the same field in Rhodesia where it all started, channeled the dead witch doctor, killed a chicken (seriously) and splattered the blood all over Safran (that part was just for fun). The following year, the Socceroos finally qualified for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, the first time in 32 years.
Not only did they qualify, but advanced into the second round, far and away the best result the little team from the little continent down under had ever achieved, making Safran a hero overnight, and confirming Voodoo as the one true religion.
#1. The Cubs and the Curse of the Billy Goat
Come on, who else but the Cubs could take the top spot?
All William Sianis wanted to do was take his pet goat Murphy to see the Chicago Cubs play in the 1945 World Series. He even bought an extra ticket for the goat to use that cost $7.20 each because they were box seats; a lot of money to spend on a goat-date. Despite some difficulty getting into Wrigley Field with the goat, they were eventually allowed in and sat down to enjoy some championship baseball.
In the seventh inning, however, Cubs owner Philip Wrigley personally had Sianis and Murphy ejected from the stadium, for some trivial reason involving the goat's incredible stench making people nauseous. Furious, Sianis declared that "The Cubs ain't gonna win no more," and according to Sianis's family, he even sent a telegram to Wrigley explaining his curse in detail; that the Cubs would never again appear in a World Series, let alone win one, all because Wrigley had insulted his goat.
William Sianis and Murphy on their wedding night
Before the incident with Sianis in 1945 (heretoforth referred to as "Goatgate"), the Cubs enjoyed a rich winning tradition. Although their last World Series win was back in 1908, they'd appeared in the World Series seven times since 1910. They were the winningest baseball team in the country at the time, having achieved 51 winning seasons out of 70 prior to Goatgate.
After the curse, well, you probably know. The Cubs immediately lost the 1945 World Series despite being only two games away from winning it, encouraging Sianis to send another telegram to Wrigley which simply read, "Who stinks now?"
The Cubs haven't been to the World Series since.
Still Not Convinced?
The Cubs have gotten close twice. In 1984 they made their first playoff appearance since Goatgate. So, curse over, right? It was a five-game series, and the Cubs leaped out to a quick two games to none advantage. One more win, and they'd be back in the World Series. So, they start the third game, go up 3-0, their best pitcher is on the mound...
An error allowed a single Padres runner to score. Suddenly the dark, goat-shaped clouds formed over Wrigley, and the Padres not only went on to win that game, but the next two after that, to knock the Cubs out of the playoffs.
But that's okay, they'd get close again just, uh, 19 years later, in 2003. This time they won the first round of the playoffs, against the Braves. Ah, so now the curse is gone. Right?
The next series was against the Florida Marlins. In the best-of-seven series, they went up three games to one. That's more like it! Just one more win, and it's a World Series, baby! Nothing can go wrong, now! Hell, one win in three remaining games? You could do that on accident.
The Cubs lose Game Five. Then, in Game Six, ahead 3-0 in the 8th inning, just five outs away from a World Series...
Praying to the Goat God is futile. The curse stays.
A Marlins player get a hit, a double. The next guy hits a ball right into the first row of the stands. The Cubs player goes over to catch it for the out... and a fan knocks it away. A Cubs fan. His name was Steve Bartman, and he would get actual death threats in the ensuing months and years. That batter, still alive thanks to the missed catch, walked. They got another hit, and next batter hit into what would have been an inning-ending double play... had the Cubs shortstop--best fielding shortstop in the game--not dropped the ball.
The next batter tied it and the Marlins of course went on to win that game, and the next, and that was that.
Numerous attempts at to lift curse have been staged throughout Chicago, including William Sianis's son marching a goat onto the field, press conferences being held at the Billy Goat Tavern in Chicago, once owned by William and even fans hanging a goat's carcass from the Harry Caray statue in Chicago, all to no avail.
Try as they might, this gesture did surprisingly little to help appease the goat gods.
And check out some sports that don't need curses, in 6 Insane Sports That Could Be in the Next Olympics. Or find out about some mascots that brought shame to their teams, in 6 Heinous Criminal Acts From the World of Sports (Mascots).
Or, visit Cracked.com's Top Picks because we keep a witch doctor on payroll in case people disobey us.